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DISCRETIONS 

INDISCRETIONS 




MYSELF AS 1 AM TO-DAY, MARCH, .1932, LUCY DUFF GORDON 


Frontispiece ] 




DISCRETIONS & 
INDISCRETIONS 


By 

LADY DUFF GORDON 


THIRD IMPRESSION 


JARROLDS Publishers (LONDON) 
Limited, 34 Paternoster Kon>, E.C.4 

MCMXXXH 



MADE AND PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 
AT GAINSBOROUGH PRESS, ST. ALBANS 
BY FISHER, KNIGHT AND CO., LTD 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Myself as I am to-day, March, 1932, Lucy Duff Gordon Frontispiece 

FACING 

PAGE 

Mr. Saunders, the grandfather who was always sympathetic 16 

Mrs. Saunders, the grandmother I was so much in awe of . 16 

Myself in 1899; my waist in those days was 21 inches 

round it ........ 28 

Elinor Glyn at the time she wrote Three Weeks . , 44 

17, Hanover Square, my first big venture, where I started 

‘‘Mannequin” Parades ...... 70 

A Photo of “Lily Elsie” in a “Lucile Frock” . , , 102 

My Daughter, Esme Halsbury, with her son Anthony 
Tiverton, taken when he was two years old — he is now 
a “married man” 106 

The Late Lord Halsbury with Anthony, his grandson and 

mine ; he was 88 years old in this picture . . .122 

Myself in 1910 when I opened “Lucile” in New York . 130 

My mother, niece, and myself at the “1912” Ball at the 

Albert Hall in 1912 ...... 184 

“Lucile's” House at n Rue de Penthievres, where I had such 
a big success with my English fashions and Mannequins, 
started 1911 ........ 186 

The Garden of Elsie de Wolfe's (Lady Mendl) Villa Trianon 

at Versailles, 1913 ....... 200 

My husband and self in the Garden of “Pavilion Mars” at 
Versailles in 1914, just before the War, with Porthos, the 
huge St. Bernard, and Mr. Futze, the Peke . . 200 

The Garden at Versailles where Isadora Duncan danced at 

night ......... 206 

A “Mannequin” Parade in 1913 in the garden at Lucile's, 

23, Hanover Square ...... 210 

Dolores in a “Ziegfeld Follie” Dress in 1916 in New York . 214 

Phyllis in a dress designed and made at my studio, 160 Fifth 

Avenue, New York, for the Ziegfeld 19x6 Follies , 220 

Phyllis in the Wedding Gown for which I got the £1,000 

cheque for coming into New York to design it . . 224 

Mme Cecile Sorel of the Com&iie Francaise, given to me 
in 1927 ........ 


9 


268 




DISCRETIONS AND 
INDISCRETIONS 


CHAPTER ONE 

“TV 70THING but the white heat of passion can 
1^1 forge the spark of genius." 

A man, who loved me very much, once said this 
to me when I had told him the story of my birth, and 
I have never forgotten it, for I should like to think 
that it is true. It certainly was in one respect, for no 
two people were ever more passionately in love than 
my father and mother were when I was bom, a demure 
little daughter, with an incurably sunny disposition 
from my cradle. Of the “genius" I cannot speak. I 
have been successful in many things and a failure in 
others. I have made a great fortune and lost it all. 
I have loved many people and been loved by many 
more. Been happy for moments in my life and known 
my full share of sorrow in others. Yet, if genius is 
the faculty of creating and seeing beauty in every- 
day life, then indeed my friend spoke truly and I 
possess it. 

I do not think that, on the whole, it is good for a 
woman to have temperament. It is much better for 
her to be a vegetable, and certainly much safer, but I 
never had the choice. I have often secretly envied my 
normal and conventionally feminine friends, contented 
with their stolid husbands and commonplace children, 
for I have known that such contentment could never 
be mine. I have always had too much imagination 


II 



13 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

and splashed the blank canvas of my life with such 
brilliant colours that there had to be a good bas-relief 
of black to make them stand out. A woman's imagin- 
ation is such a delicate and vivid thing that everyday 
life cannot keep pace with it, and realities, no matter 
how attractive they may have seemed from afar, will 
always disappoint her. At least that has been my own 
experience. 

As other women have found satisfaction in physical 
creation, in bearing and bringing up children, so I 
have found mine in creating a dream world of my own, 
and I used to step into it and shut the door behind me 
whenever the everyday facts of life appeared too dull 
and uninteresting. 

If I were asked now what I consider to be the 
greatest asset that any human being can bring into 
life I should reply, “a zest for living", and this was 
bequeathed to me by my parents, as it was to my 
sister, Elinor Glyn, their only other child, together 
with a great love of beauty. It was a fitting heritage 
of their romance. 

I never knew my father, for he died when I was a 
baby of two years old, but I have heard my mother 
describe him so often that I can see him now as she 
saw him that first time, walking up the garden path of 
her father's old farmhouse, in the sunshine of a spring 
morning, tall and handsome and debonair, very sure 
of himself, and sure of life in general. Very sure, too, 
that he wanted her from the first moment he saw her, 
this lovely, little Canadian girl, still in her teens, with 
the bloom of youth in her soft colouring, and the 
shyness of the child hidden under her air of assurance, 
as she played hostess for her father, and poured out 
the tea from the huge urn and handed round cakes of 
her own baking. 

: It was a Sunday afternoon, and they were keeping 
cgsea house, in the hospitable fashion of the Colonies 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 13 

in those days at Woodlands, my grandfather's big ranch, 
just outside Guelph, Ontario, and my mother loves to 
tell of the number of suitors from miles around who 
used to ride over every week* But my father never 
had much to fear from them, for it was a case of love 
at first sight* Within a week he had proposed and 
been accepted. 

In those few days they had a lot to learn about one 
another* She found out that her admirer was Douglas 
Sutherland, a distant relative of the Duke of Suther- 
land, and one of the pioneer group of young English- 
men of good birth who, not content with the small 
allowance which was all that an impoverished family 
could make them, had emigrated to the Colonies to 
earn a living for themselves* He was succeeding well 
enough at this, for although at that time he was still 
in his early twenties he was becoming well-known as 
an engineer, and there are important bridges in various 
parts of the world which testify to his ability* 

But he was more than a builder of bridges. He was 
a painter and a musician of exceptional gifts. I still 
play one of the pieces which he composed for the 
piano, which was found by my mother in MS* after 
his death. He used to sit for hours playing to her, 
improvising lovely melodies, some of which he set to 
words. At other times he would shut himself up in 
his studio and paint. My mother has kept many of 
his pictures among her most cherished possessions, 
and she always says that my sister got her literary 
talent, and I my love of line and colour, from him* 

As for mother, she was the practical one of the 
family, for she had a shrewd brain and a lot of com- 
monsense locked away in her adorably pretty head. I 
have seen many of the most beautiful women in the 
world, but I never remember any with more charm 
than my own mother when she was young. She was 
gay and full of life, and from the Irish side of her 



14 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

family she had inherited a great sense of humour and 
a ready wit. 

So these two people embarked on marriage as a 
joyous adventure, and although neither of them had 
much money and very few definite plans for the future, 
they started off to Rio de Janeiro, where my father had 
been offered a contract. He spent some time there on 
construction work, and in the glamour and wonder of 
the first love of these young, vital beings, I was con- 
ceived. The torch they handed down to me was lighted 
at the flame of passion, and the rapture and the joy of 
their romance was rekindled in my own eagerness for 
emotional experience. 

This, I think, is the only way in which children 
should be brought into life ; there are too many mediocre, 
colourless men and women going about the world 
to-day, born of a union which was neither that of passion, 
nor of great love and companionship. There is very 
little to be said in my opinion for the “mariage de 
convenance", though I am aware that this view is not 
shared by everyone. 

A few weeks before I was born my parents came to 
London, and I made my appearance in a house in St. 
John's Wood, a stone's throw from Lords. There 
was a big match in progress that day, and mother has 
told me that the last thing she remembered before 
losing consciousness was a tumultuous burst of cheering 
from the cricket ground. It struck her as a good omen 
afterwards for the little daughter whose arrival was 
thus heralded. 

I was christened “Lucy Christiana". The first 
mane I have always disliked intensely, although it was 
destined to become famous, and all my intimate friends 
have known me as Christiana. One year and four 
months later a little sister was bom and christened 
Elinor after my mother. She was a very beautiful 
baby. I do not suppose that in all England a happier 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 15 

family could have been found, for my father and 
mother adored one another, and were absurdly proud 
of their babies, and played with us both like dolls. 
Fortune seemed determined to smile on us, and con- 
tracts for several years ahead had been signed by my 
father. An invention of his, a special machine for 
piercing railway tunnels, had brought him to the fore, 
and he was at Turin engaged on the plans of a big 
viaduct when the blow fell. He caught typhus fever 
and came home to England a dying man. 

Elinor, the baby, was just five months old on the 
day that he was buried. 

My mother was distraught with grief, and for 
weeks it was feared that she would never survive the 
shock. She seemed to have lost all interest in life, and 
the little home that had known so much gaiety became 
a place of sorrow. One of my first vague, childish 
memories is of seeing my mother, in her widow's 
weeds, crying bitterly as she sorted out some papers 
that had belonged to my father. It made a deep 
impression on me, and I can recall to this day the 
consternation which came over me. 

Hitherto I had associated crying with myself and 
Elinor, something that was the result of falling or 
having a pain, in any case something that could be 
quickly cured by a grown-up person. That one of 
these superior, god-like and all-powerful beings should 
themselves cry bitter, unchecked tears in my presence 
knocked the bottom out of my small world for the time 
being, and although I howled loudly in sympathy I 
had an obscure feeling that I had been let down. 

In addition to the sorrow of losing the man she 
adored, my mother was faced with the worry of making 
the tiny sum of money which he had left provide for 
herself and two sturdy babies, whose demands became 
daily more complicated. In the end she gave up the 
unequal struggle and took us both out to Canada to 



16 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

live with her parents. Grandfather and Grandmother 
Saunders. 

By this time my grandparents had sold “ Woodlands” 
and had taken another big ranch, “Summer Hill”, and 
here most of my early childhood was spent. 

As I write the picture of the two stern old people 
comes before me, and I can feel again the tremendous 
awe which grandmama invariably inspired in Elinor 
and myself. She was a very terrifying old lady, in her 
stiff, black, silk dresses and snowy, lace caps with their 
pink, velvet ribbons, and her severe rules of etiquette, 
which must never be infringed. Our infant lives were 
governed by a series of maxims. We must never cry, 
never do this or that. 

“Ladies do not show emotion or cry. The common 
people can find that a relaxation,” she would say. 

Her whole attitude towards life was summed up 
in the phrase, “Noblesse oblige”, which she so often 
quoted. 

On the rare occasions when she unbent sufficiently 
to tell us tales we would listen fascinated by the 
adventures she had had. 

She was the daughter of Sir John Wilcocks, of 
Dublin, and had been bom in 1803. She remembered 
the Battle of Waterloo quite well as one of her elder 
brothers had fought in it, and the story of his being 
wounded and taken prisoner on the field was one of 
our favourites. She had been brought up principally 
in Paris, and although she had come out to the New 
World when she married my grandfather, she always 
longed to go back to France. 

She and grandfather had come out to Canada, a 
six weeks' journey in those days, with three or four old 
Irish and Scottish families, and took up a large tract 
of land in a new country, which they farmed them- 
selves, although neither of them had had any experience 
of work before. Grandmama used to say that her 





DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 17 

greatest grief was when her last pair of silk stockings 
went in holes ! 

She was faithful to the traditions of her French 
upbringing to the day of her death, for although she 
and grandfather had been doing the work of farm 
labourers all day, she insisted on dressing for dinner 
every night, and was always served with all the ceremony 
of a dinner party in Paris, rather than that of a ranch 
in the wilds. 

Every year her French friends used to send out a 
huge barrel of clothes for the exiles — corsets, silk 
stockings, the latest Paris dresses, even expensive 
gloves and wigs. What use they could have been put 
to out there I cannot imagine, but they were an 
enormous consolation to grandmama. 

So the early years of my life passed pleasantly 
enough on the ranch near Guelph, and I grew into a 
typical little Canadian girl, independent and resource- 
ful, a terrible tomboy, used to playing with boys and 
quite capable of holding my own with them. I was the 
ringleader in all the games we played out in the fields, 
or in the dim, roomy old barns and storehouses ; I 
was always the one who was caught stealing apples, 
or falling into the duck pond, or chasing the hens. 

I had absolutely no fear of anything on earth, and 
mother used to be terrified that I would break my 
neck or cripple myself for life in one of my escapades. 
I rode everything on the ranch that was within the 
limits of human . possibility to ride, and learnt, after 
repeated tumbles, to stick firm on the back of a bucking 
steer. My thick mop of hair was always cropped 
short, and as I inevitably ruined every frock I possessed 
I was generally dressed in coarse blue serge in winter 
and striped gingham in summer. I could climb trees 
that very few of the boys in the neighbourhood could 
climb, and I was an expert at fishing for minnows with 
a bent pin. 



18 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

My love for dolls was my only feminine trait at 
that time, and I was secretly sensitive about it, as it 
gave the boys, whom I envied with all my heart, a 
chance to tease me. So I kept the family of them 
hidden away in the litde room I shared with my sister, 
and lavished all my caresses on them in secret. 

One memory of this time shows me a side of myself 
which I find difficult to understand, for it must have 
come from a streak of cruelty which is absolutely 
foreign to the rest of my personality. 

My greatest joy in life in those ranch days was to 
watch the chickens killed ! I took a ghoulish delight 
in watching their struggles in the brawny hands of the 
yard man as he twisted their unfortunate necks, and 
danced up and down excitedly at their despairing 
“squarks”. The final thrill of seeing them run jerkingly 
and horribly a few paces with headless and bleeding 
necks had for me all the fascination which the spectacle 
of a dozen Christian martyrs, delivered over to wild 
beasts, must have had for a Roman audience. 

I am ashamed to remember how I looked forward 
to days on which I knew chickens would be killed, and 
how eagerly I awaited the coming of their executioner. 
When it was finished I would be trembling violently 
with a sort of nervous ecstasy, and I would go away 
thinking how only an hour before those mangled 
corpses had been pecking cheerfully in the farmyard. 
I have never been able to explain this infant sadism 
in myself, for in all other respects I was the most 
tender-hearted child in the world, and would sit for 
hours nursing a sick kitten or puppy, while I had my 
own name for every calf and sucking-pig on the farm. 

My sister Elinor was a very different type of child. 
She was a prim little person, beautiful to look at, with 
her almond-shaped eyes, her delicate colouring and 
regular features. She was very neat and tidy in her 
appearance, too, and was far more interested in clothes 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


19 


than I, the future dress-designer, was* She was one 
of those serious, good little girls, who are always 
popular with grown-ups, and never seemed to give 
any trouble, while I was always in and out of some 
scrape or other. And even in those days she was 
wonderful at telling stories* On a wet afternoon she 
would keep us enthralled for hours at the adventures 
of knights and princes and lovely ladies. 

At the school we went to she was always at the top 
of the class, while I was rather a dunce. It was the 
funniest little school in the world, kept by a Miss 
Remmy and two other dear, quaint little old ladies. 
From them I learnt to sew and embroider beautifully, 
to recite from Cowper and Longfellow, to play short 
pieces on the piano (this was considered a rare accom- 
plishment), and somehow acquired a smattering of 
arithmetic and history. Also I had my first love affair 
with a little freckled boy, a year or two older than 
myself, who used to do my sums for me, and bring me 
enormous apples to munch in class whenever I got the 
opportunity, which was often, as the dear old ladies 
were all shortsighted. 

It was after I had been attending school for a year 
or so that I discovered the joy of making clothes, 
which has lasted all through these years with the same 
unabated interest. I tried my first creative inspirations 
on my dolls and dressed them in frocks and under- 
clothes made from every bit of material I could lay 
my hands on. I could be bribed to do any particularly 
loathed task with the promise of a piece of silk or 
velvet, and I used to spend hours patiently thinking 
out colour schemes for one or other of my dolls. 

Of course all the little girls in the neighbourhood 
came to know that I was the owner of the best-dressed 
dolls, and I was keenly sought after to replenish the 
wardrobes of theirs. I used to love the work, although 
I generally took payment for it always in kind. Very 



20 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

often it would be a remnant of material left over from 
their mothers* workbags, sometimes it would be fruit 
or sweets. But if they had nothing to give me I put 
the same amount of energy into the work, for I loved 
cutting out and sewing the minute garments, just as, 
many years after, I was to love creating some glorious 
ball-dress and setting a new fashion. 

I can remember to this day some of the dolls* 
clothes I made. One hat I designed for a golden- 
haired, blue-eyed doll of my own pleased me especially. 
It was of pale yellow straw, and with the instinct of 
blending colours that was to make me world-famous 
later, I trimmed it with ribbons of gentian blue and 
cerise. It really looked lovely and I was very proud 
of it. I remember that I gave a dolls’ party to show 
it off to my friends. 

Other memories of Canada were not so pleasant. 
There was a definite obstacle to happiness in the 
severity of my grandmother, for I was always incurring 
her displeasure by my tomboy ways. Elinor, who was 
a quiet, lady-like little girl, was very rarely punished, 
but I hated the old lady, and some demon of mischief 
would force me to annoy her far more often than I 
need have done. Then I would be sent to my bed- 
room in disgrace until grandfather would intercede 
for me. I was his favourite, and although he too was 
in considerable awe of grandmama I always felt that 
I had in him an ally. Another devoted adherent of 
mine was Allen Walden, the old negro servant, who 
had been an escaped slave. I never tired of hearing 
the thrilling story of how his mother fled to Canada, 
with the bloodhounds on her trail. 

My recollections of grandmama are chiefly asso- 
ciated with dreadful Sundays which used to seem an 
interminable waste of time to a child. One day in 
every seven was passed in misery, at least by most of 
the household, although we dared not rebel openly 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 31 

against her rigid code of what was right and fitting 
for the Sabbath. “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy" 
as interpreted by her meant turning it into a day of 
intolerable boredom. No books, no music except 
hymns, all toys put away, conversations restricted to 
religious subjects 1 How I hated it, and how often I 
was in disgrace for open rebellion ! I can still remember 
long psalms and catechisms, which I was forced to 
learn in dreary penance. 

It was partly, I think, on account of my grand- 
mother's temper that Mother decided to marry again, 
so that her children could have a happier home. She 
has since told me that she never loved the elderly, 
Scottish gentleman, David Kennedy, who became her 
second husband, as she loved my father, but he was 
one of the kindest men on earth, and as he promised 
to look after Elinor and me, and send us to a good school, 
she felt it was right to give us the best possible chance 
in life. 

Mother looked very sad, I remember, on her 
wedding-day, but I was jubilant at the thought of the 
voyage back to Scotland and the fact of leaving 
grandmother. 

We sailed on the Circassian, Mr. Kennedy, whom 
we were now to call “Father", Mother, Elinor and I, 

' and a whole family of dolls. I was practically the only 
passenger who was not seasick, and soon made friends 
with everyone on board. I used to go into the saloon 
and play a piece on the piano, which I had learnt at 
school. It was called “The Fairy Queen Waltz", and 
was full of little runs and trills, which sounded very 
difficult. The passengers were much impressed with 
it and I built up quite a reputation for myself as a 
pianist. I never knew the meaning of shyness, either 
then or at any other time in my life, and so I found it 
easy to make friends. 



CHAPTER TWO 


M Y first impressions of England have been blurred 
by time* I cannot even remember where we 
landed, but I know that there was a fog, and we drove 
through wet streets, over which the faint, grey light of 
dawn was just breaking, turning the lamps into sickly 
yellow blobs. Even at that age I must have been 
intensely sensitive to colour, for I felt the depression 
of those drab streets and hated to think that my home 
was to be in such an ugly country. 'J 

Eventually we arrived at a little hotel, the only 
place we could find open at that time, and a slatternly 
woman brought us smoky tea and half-cold eggs and 
bacon. Then Elinor and I were put to bed in a huge 
four-poster, between sheets smelling of camphor, and 
when we woke it was late afternoon. 

Before we had been in England many days we were 
taken up to Scotland to stay with our stepfather's 
relations. We went first to his brother's house, Bal- 
greggan, on the Mull of Galloway, and I have often 
laughed since at the thought of the consternation our 
arrival must have caused at the beautiful old ancestral 
home. We were all dreadfully tired and bedraggled 
and very dirty after hours in the train, and it was 
obvious even to my childish perceptions that the stem 
Scottish family did not approve of the acquisition of 
the pretty young widow and her noisy offspring. 
Mother was terribly anxious that we should be on our 
best behaviour, and, of course, as children invariably 
do, we let her down and did everything to create an 
unfavourable impression. 

When bedtime came we were sent off to our room. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 23 

a terrifying place it seemed to us, for it was shut off 
from the rest of the house and was led up to by a 
narrow, winding staircase, so dark that even with 
candles we stumbled up it. The room itself was not 
reassuring. It was enormous, with ghostly shadows 
and heavy tapestry hangings, revealing glimpses of 
panelled walls. At one corner was a little oak door, 
which opened on to another steep flight of steps lead- 
ing to the tower. The bed, which was set back in an 
alcove, was so big that it could have easily accommodated 
six children like ourselves, and we were too frightened 
to draw its thick velvet curtains and shut ourselves 
in. For what seemed an interminable time we lay 
there in the dark scarcely daring to breathe, then 
suddenly I rent the silence with a succession of 
piercing screams. Terror had descended on me and 
even awe of my new stepfather could not keep me 
quiet. 

Of course there was a great commotion, and Mother 
and the relations came rushing upstairs to see what 
was the matter. I refused to be left alone in the dark 
a moment longer, and continued to scream to the dis- 
comfiture of poor Mother, who had to listen to sharp 
comments on “undisciplined children". In the end 
we were allowed a nightlight, and the door was left 
open. 

I was never really happy there, for both Elinor and 
I were very lonely, and die other children who came 
to stay there used to make fun of our colonial clothes 
and odd expressions, which we had picked up from the 
men on the ranch. The three smart English nurses, 
who were in charge of the juvenile members of the 
household, despised us and were always complaining 
of our tomboy habits, and punishing us for some 
crime or other. 

After leaving Balgreggan we made a round of 
Scottish visits to various members of the Kennedy 



34 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

family. They all seemed very much alike to me. 
Always the same old castles, the same dour, elderly 
butlers, the same huge and gloomy bedrooms. The 
aunts and cousins seemed very much the same too, 
thin, grizzled men, and rather weatherbeaten women, 
with soft, Scottish voices and kind smiles lighting up 
stem faces. 

Then to London, where both Elinor and I were 
dreadfully disappointed to find that the streets were 
not paved with gold as we had imagined. On the 
ranch in Canada we had often talked of how rich we 
would be when we came to England, and the excellent, 
but very ordinary, hotel we stayed at in Great Portland 
Street fell far short of the romantic dwelling we had 
pictured. 

“Never mind, Elinor, I'm going to be very rich in 
London one day,” I said consoling her. 

It was prophetic, although at the time nothing 
seemed less likely. 

Our stay in London was a short one, for the elderly 
stepfather developed bronchitis, and was ordered to a 
warmer climate, and the whole family moved to Jersey. 

When we arrived the harbour was decorated with 
flags and garlands of flowers were hanging from all 
the windows. We were told it was to celebrate the 
wedding of the Dean's daughter, Lily le Breton, the 
most beautiful girl in Jersey, who had been married 
that morning to Mr. Langtry and had gone away to 
London “to be a great lady”. 

We were both very curious about this lovely 
creature, stories of whose romantic career as a court 
beauty used to be circulated all over the Island. We 
were always hearing of what she had worn at the 
opera, of how she had set a new fashion in hats, and 
of how often the Prince of Wales had danced with her 
at the Devonshire House ball. When she used to come 
back to stay at hex old home we were all agog with 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 25 

excitement, and receptions were given in her honour 
at Government House* Nearly half the population 
used to go down to the Quay to cheer the boat which 
brought her ashore, and flags would be flying all 
along her route* It was almost like the arrival of a 
queen. 

Elinor and I determined that come what might we 
would see the "Jersey Lily” and find out whether she 
was as beautiful as we had been told. It required some 
ingenuity on our part, as although we were very 
friendly with the Governor's family and his daughter, 
Ada, was our special playmate, we were too young to 
attend any of the formal parties at which Mrs. Langtry 
would be a guest. In the end we evolved the plan of 
hiding in the rooms in which she would take off her 
cloak at one of the receptions. 

We stole out of our beds and dressing in the dark 
for fear of arousing suspicion if a light were noticed 
in our room, made our way to Government House. 
Ada let us in, and we crept upstairs like conspirators 
and hid under the dressing-table, draping the folds 
of white muslin, with which it was trimmed, so that 
they completely screened us, leaving- only a tiny 
peephole. 

We had some time to wait, for Lily Langtry always 
made her entry last of all the guests at a party, and one 
by one the women came upstairs to remove cloaks 
and shawls. It was the first time we had seen most 
of them in evening dress, and we had a great deal of 
fun comparing their dresses. 

Just as we were beginning to feel intolerably 
cramped from our uncomfortable position crouched 
on the floor, a buzz of conversation and a light and 
very musical laugh on the stairs announced the arrival 
of Lily Langtry, and a moment later she came into 
the room. 

I never saw any woman more divinely lovely than 



26 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

she looked in her white dress, with a scarlet flower in 
her hair nestling against one ear. She came and sat 
down at the dressing-table while she arranged her 
dress and pinned a beautiful diamond brooch on one 
shoulder. We were so close to her that we dared not 
move one inch, for fear of touching her dress and 
giving away the secret of our presence, but even through 
the folds of the muslin curtain we could see her perfect 
beauty. There was an extraordinary radiance about 
Lily Langtry that I have never seen in any other 
woman, and there was something so vital and magnetic 
in her personality that a room seemed empty when 
she left it. 

The years passed happily in Jersey, and slowly I 
emerged from a tomboy into a very feminine and, I 
think, rather an attractive young lady. I must have 
been attractive because in my first season I was engaged 
three times. None of the engagements lasted longer 
than a few weeks, for I was the most fickle thing on 
earth and used to have violent love affairs with the 
young officers who were stationed there, and then 
suddenly find that I liked someone else better and jilt 
them in the most heartless way. By the time I was 
seventeen I had left a trail of broken hearts, though 
it is a comfort to realize now that most of them were 
speedily mended. 

I was not as beautiful as my sister Elinor, for I 
never had her classical regularity of feature, but I made 
many men think me the most beautiful thing in the 
world, and that is all that a woman need to do. I 
had the family red hair, which was very rare then, and 
a little laughing face. Also I had something which 
not a woman in a hundred had in those days — “chic”. 
Nobody had even heard of the word in English until 
I brought it in later, although it has been sadly over- 
worked since. But I had that dress sense, which was 
a priceless asset to me then, and has been all my life. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 27 

I adored beautiful clothes and set about creating 
them for myself and my sister Elinor* I had only the 
smallest of dress allowances, but that did not worry 
me* I would just buy a few yards of material and make 
out of it a dress that would fill every other woman 
with envy* I studied my own type with as much care 
as I used to study, many years later, the types of women 
who came to consult me from all over the world. I 
found out exactly what suited me, and I decided to 
adopt an original style of dress, taking my inspiration 
from the pictures of the old masters. 

I had one dress of which I was especially fond* It 
was in black velvet, which fell in soft folds to the feet, 
and there was a little tight bodice, which was finished 
with a deep belt. It could easily be worn to-day, 
which shows how little clothes change in their essentials 
from one generation to another. 

Perhaps I loved this dress because it was the one 
I wore when I fell so seriously in love for the first 
time* Before that I had only been loved, and it was 
a new and wonderful experience. He was a young 
captain, not one of the usual group of officers who 
used to be in and out of our house every day, but a 
new-comer to Jersey, and I met him for the first time 
at a dance where I wore this black frock. He scrawled 
his name in big, bold letters for many dances on my 
programme, and indifferent to the feelings of my 
other partners I ruthlessly sat out time after time with 
him. That was the beginning of a romance which 
lasted for many months and gave me the most 
exquisite pleasure. 

There is nothing in the world quite so beautiful 
as first love, with its seriousness and its shyness. We 
used to go skating together, or take long walks, and 
see all the homely everyday scenes with new eyes. I 
have loved other men since and known passion, which 
I could not then have even dreamed of, but I cannot 



38 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

recall any sweeter time in my life than those months 
in Jersey. 

It had to end, as first love so often does, in dis- 
appointment. Perhaps I let him know too plainly 
how much he meant to me, a fatal mistake in a love 
affair, since man should always be the hunter, perhaps 
I was too unsophisticated to hold him, or perhaps he 
was, like myself, fickle by nature. But whatever the 
reason he drifted away from me. 

I was terribly hurt, and utterly incapable of coping 
with the situation. I still loved him and wanted him 
back desperately, although I would not even admit it 
to myself. I used to suffer agonies of grief in silence, 
for I was very proud and would hide up my wounds 
at all costs. I decided that there was only one thing 
to be done. I must let him see that I did not care. 
So to this end I married the next man who asked me, 
and he happened to be James Stuart Wallace. I met 
him when I was staying with some friends at a beau- 
tiful old country house, and he fell in love with me and 
proposed within a week. 

I cannot pretend that anything but pique would 
have made me listen to him, for we were hopelessly 
unsuited to one another in every way, and he was 
more than twenty years. older than I was. Still any- 
thing was better than eating out my heart for the man 
who had gone from me, and Jim was good-looking and 
successful enough to please any woman. 

The night before my wedding I cried myself to 
sleep over the old love, and made up my mind to be a 
really good wife to the new. 

I set myself to make the best of my marriage, but 
I was handicapped from the very start. I was only 
eighteen, remember, and a Victorian eighteen, not a 
self-reliant, modern girl. I had no real experience of 
men and no knowledge of men, and the code of those 
days made it practically impossible for a wife to do 





DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 29 

anything other than put up with an unhappy marriage, 
if she had had the bad luck to make one. 

We went to live at Cranford, near Hounslow, in a 
house that had belonged to old Morton Berkeley, which 
we rented from his nephew, Lord FitzHarding. I was 
very fond of that kindly, genial man, and he used to 
come and entertain us for hours with his stories. He 
belonged to a type which is fast dying out, even if it is 
not already extinct. He was the epitome of the “man 
about Town” of the “ 'nineties”. He went every- 
where, knew everyone and had the inner story of every 
scandal in London. He had a great sense of humour 
and a great knowledge of humanity. All these things 
combined to make Lord FitzHarding, who was called 
“The Giant”, because he was so very small, a perfect 
raconteur, and I never got tired of listening to him. 

I was very lonely in those days. I could have had, 
had I wished, a dozen lovers to console me, but 
although I liked the companionship of men, as I have 
liked it all my life, I would not listen to them. 

We led a sort of Micawber existence, for the most 
part varied with bursts of affluence. When James had 
the money he would be generous to a fault, and because 
he was proud of me I always had money for beautiful 
clothes, although I insisted on making them myself. 

One day I realized that I was going to have a child. 
I cannot say that I was anything but dismayed at the 
discovery. I was so young that I resented the physical 
discomfort intensely. Novelists always write of the 
wonder of the first months of approaching mother- 
hood, but my own experience was the very reverse. 
In my scheme of life motherhood had no place. I 
was not in love with my husband, and I dreaded the 
thought of having a child. Also I was terribly worried 
at the prospect of the added expense, especially as 
our finances were then at the lowest ebb. However, 
I made up my mind to do my best for the child which 



30 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

I was to bring into the world, and with that idea 
turned my thoughts to all I had read about prenatal 
influence. 

I decided that my child should be both beautiful 
and musical. I smile to-day, remembering all the 
precautions I took and how seriously I gave my mind 
to them. To make up for my temporary loss of beauty 
I dressed myself in the loveliest clothes I could create. 
I toiled round picture galleries and museums con- 
centrating on pictures and sculpture, and I used to 
play the piano for hours each day. Even that was 
not enough, for I wanted to take no chances on having 
a little music lover. I had at that time among my 
intimate friends the famous violinist Tivadar Nachez. 
Nearly every evening he used to come to the little 
house and play exquisitely to me while I sat entranced 
with the beauty of his music. Those hours were 
among the happiest I spent at Cranford, and I always 
feel a debt of gratitude to the great artist, who gave up 
so much of his time to me. 

Unfortunately it did not have the desired effect, 
for the little daughter who was born to me hated music 
during her early childhood, and used to scream and 
tremble violently if anyone played the violin in her 
presence. So much for the prenatal theory. 

She was, however, a beautiful baby, and although 
I had not wanted to be a mother I grew to love her 
dearly. She was a great compensation for my marriage. 
I called her Esme. 



CHAPTER THREE 


AS I turn back the pages of the early years of my life 
xjL I see the drab background of my marriage and 
divorce splashed with vivid patches of colour. There 
were the friendships I made and the memory of them 
is very sweet to me, for as one grows older one finds 
it ever harder to make real friends. It is, I think, only 
in youth that we give that spontaneous, selfless 
affection that goes to make a perfect understanding 
between two people. 

I came to value my friends when they stood by me 
in a very bad time, and I can never be grateful enough 
for their loyalty and kindness. 

When my little daughter was about five years old 
the wretchedness of my married life was suddenly 
ended. My husband left me and went away with a 
girl who was dancing in pantomime. There was 
nothing to do but divorce him and I started pro- 
ceedings. I was left literally penniless, without any 
prospect of getting alimony, but my mother promised 
to pay the costs of the case, and took Esme and me 
to live with her in her little house in Davies Street. 

I dreaded the ordeal of the • Court unspeakably, 
for divorce in those days was a very different matter 
from what it is now, and I had to run the gauntlet of 
public opinion. In the reign of Queen Victoria a 
woman who divorced her husband was considered 
“not quite nice’', however flagrant her wrongs. Many 
of my friends tried their hardest to persuade me to 
withdraw the case, but my mind was made up, and I 
never regretted the decision. It was “Cheiro”, the 
great Palmist, whose advice I took, which decided me. 



33 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

Whether my reputation suffered through it or not 
I hardly know, for I was always the subject of gossip, 
but I never lost a single friend. 

The case was all over in less than a quarter of an 
hour. 

So I was left, still in my early twenties, to enjoy 
the first fruits of freedom. 

I grew to love the independence of the little house 
in Davies Street and my room, now blessedly my own, 
and as the weeks passed I began to find new interests. 

One of these was my friendship with Ellen Terry. 
I shall never forget my meeting with this brilliant and 
lovely woman. From my childhood I had been intensely 
fond of the theatre, and my mother used to fear that 
it would lead me to go upon the stage, of which she 
had the conventional horror of her generation. But 
although I had several offers to appear in different 
productions, and in later years became closely con- 
nected with the theatre, I never felt it my metier. 

I used to go to the Lyceum to see Ellen Terry in 
every new play in which she appeared, and admired 
her intensely, and for years I had the wish to get to 
know her personally, but she was elusive in those days 
and went out very little, so our paths never crossed. 

Then, during the run of Faust I was invited to a 
Colonial reception, which was given on the stage of 
the Lyceum, and introduced to her. Like everyone 
else I fell under the spell of her extraordinary charm, 
and when she asked me to call on her at her house in 
Longridge Road I was delighted. I was always warm 
and impulsive in my likes and dislikes, and I had a 
longing for a real friendship with this wonderful 
artist from the moment she spoke to me. 

So a few days later I went to call on her and was 
shown into a room which seemed full of sunlight and 
flowers, where I found her sitting in the midst of a 
group of girls who were sewing. She was wearing a 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 33 

flowing robe of blue velvet, and her fair hair was 
bound round her head like a coronet* She reminded 
me, in that first glimpse of her in her own home, of a 
medieval queen seated among her maids of honour* 
Although I went to the house many times I rarely saw 
Ellen Terry without her little circle of girls* I think 
that any one of them would gladly have laid down 
their lives for her sake. I never knew any woman 
who possessed in such a degree the art of inspiring 
affection in her own sex. She was not a young woman 
then, but she was the friend and confidante of dozens 
of girls, who adored her and loved to serve her in all 
sorts of little ways. They would do her shopping for 
her, arrange the flowers, dress her to go to the theatre, 
mend her clothes, and write her letters for her. Soon 
I became one of the group and was admitted to her 
house at all hours. 

The charm of those quiet afternoons we spent 
lingers still with me. It was never that we did any- 
thing very special ; I cannot even remember what we 
talked about, but Ellen Terry had the gift of creating 
sunshine and happiness around her. Sometimes she 
used to read over one of her new plays to us, some- 
times we just gossiped and sewed pieces of stuff, 
which she used to fish out of her large and very untidy 
workbag. 

I never knew an untidier woman than she was. 

She could never find anything without a hunt that 

might last ten minutes* Every few weeks I and some 

of the other girls would have a big turn-out of her 

drawers and cupboards and leave them in apple-pie 

order, but in a day or two they would be as bad as 

ever. She was absolutely indifferent to dress, and 

thought very little of her personal appearance. Her 

hair was often tumbling down, and she would push it 

impatiently back from her face when she was interested 

in something. I could never persuade her to let me 

c 



34 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

make her a dress, although I used to drape pieces of 
material on her. It would have been impossible to 
picture her in fashionable clothes, they would not have 
suited her personality. Over her theatre clothes she 
was intensely particular, and would spend hours 
choosing her costumes, and studying her make-up, 

I met many of the most interesting people of the 
theatre at her house. Henry Irving used to drift in 
and out at all hours, looking very eccentric sometimes. 
She understood him perfectly and always knew how 
to manage him. Once or twice I saw him in a towering 
rage, working himself up to fever heat over something 
that had happened at the theatre, but she could calm 
him in a moment. It always struck me that their 
association was one of closest friendship rather than 
of love. She told me the same herself. 

“People always say that Henry is my lover of course. 
He isn't. As a matter of fact he never sees further 
than my head. He does not even know I have a 
body." 

Another man I met there was J. L. Toole. There 
was something irresistibly droll in his personality off 
the stage. I remember once his coming in to supper 
with us at EUen Terry’s house in Barkston Gardens, 
into which she had moved. He had just got back from 
his wife’s funeral, and began what was meant to be a 
sad recital of the procession and service. Somehow, 
quite unconsciously, he made it so funny that he had 
us in" fits of laughter, although we did our best to 
smother our mirth out of decorum. In the end he began 
to laugh himself, till the tears ran down his cheeks. 

“She would have laughed, too,’’ he said apolo- 
getically. “It was awfully funny.’’ 

It seems incredible that in those days there were 
many people who looked askance at Ellen Terry, and 
„ I was often warned that I should damage my own 
reputation by being seen so often in her company. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 35 

She discussed this with me in the frankest possible 
way. We had come back to her house after the theatre, 
and she was having a late supper. I can see her now 
sitting before the fire in her crimson velvet dressing- 
gown, with the tray of fruit and sandwiches in front 
of her. I said something about how much her friend- 
ship meant to me. 

"I wonder if you will always think that," she 
said, looking at me with those beautiful, candid eyes 
of hers. 

“You know you are not very wise to be friends 
with me. I am not the right woman for a good litde 
girl like you to know. I am what is called a woman 
with a past." 

Staring straight before her into the fire she told 
me the tragedy of her life. 

“As you know I married George Frederick Watts 
when I was little more than a child, and he was old 
enough to be my grandfather. I was really tremen- 
dously innocent, just a gay, little thing, without a 
serious thought in my head. I was fond of him, with 
a sort of daughterly affection, and I used to sit 
patiently for him for hours on end, sometimes in a 
dreadfully uncomfortable position with a heavy helmet 
on my head. You see I was a very kind little girl, 
and that kindness was my undoing. 

“We had a great friend, William Godwin. He had 
been friendly with the family for years and both my 
husband and I were on terms of the most informal 
intimacy with him. We used to run in and out of his 
house whenever we wanted. I often visited him alone 
and nobody thought anything of it. Then one evening 
I went to see him and found him very ill in bed, with 
terrible sickness and pain. I was so distressed for him 
that I never even thought of the conventions or the 
construction that might be placed on my actions. I 
spent the whole night with him, and only returned 



36 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

home the next morning, when he was well on the road 
to recovery* To my dismay my husband was waiting 
there for me with my parents in solemn conclave. They 
accused me of infidelity and seemed utterly horrified 
at what I had done in all innocence. I tried to explain 
that what they had imagined to be a night of love was 
spent in helping a sick man to and from the bath- 
room and heating poultices for him, but they would 
not believe me. They cast me out as a fallen woman, 
and my husband refused even to see me again. 

“I implored the family to take my part, but they 
would not listen to my explanations and I had nowhere 
to go. In despair I turned to my supposed partner in 
adultery and begged him to help me to clear myself, 
but he either could not, or perhaps did not want to 
succeed with them. At any rate he was my only 
refuge and I went back to his house. It was some years 
before I grew to love him, but in the end I gave my 
heart to him." 

Even after all these years I can recall her face as 
she told me the story of that disastrous night spent 
nursing the invalid, and how it was at once sad and 
then full of laughter. She had a wonderful sense of 
humour and could always laugh at her own mistakes. 
She was full of courage too, and a letter, which I took 
out the other day from the collection of her letters I 
have kept, reminds me of her indomitable spirit. 
It reads: 

Lucy dear. 

I'm glad you have been so happy. I have 
marked off Friday, 17th, for my box for you, 
because on the 18th there is only a matinee. 

I'm ill. Only by resting in bed all day and 
every day can I act at night. 

Yours affectionately. 


Nell. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 37 

She was indeed ill when she wrote that letter, very 
ill, but the public never knew of it* During the time 
I knew her she often suffered from ill-health, but 
she concealed it from everyone but her closest 
friends* 

Ellen Terry had many men in love with her, but 
I do not think she cared for any of them seriously. 
She was like Sarah Bernhardt, whom I came to know 
years later, wedded to her art. Men were only inci- 
dental to her happiness as a woman, not essential 
to it* 

Another friendship, which had a great influence 
on my life at this time, was that of Sir Morell Mac- 
kenzie, the famous surgeon* Scarcely a day passed 
when we did not see something of each other, and I 
used to go to his house in Harley Street, where I was 
always shown straight into his consulting-room, no 
matter how many patients might be waiting to see 
him. If ever in my life I was proud of the conquest 
of a man's heart it was of this one, which was always 
reputed to be invincible, although nearly every woman 
in London was half in love with him. 

In the evening, when his work was done, he would 
often come to see me at my mother's house in Davies 
Street, and I would play to him on the piano, for he 
was passionately fond of music* He spent the even- 
ing before his fateful journey to Germany to operate 
on the Emperor Frederick with me, and on his return 
told me all the strange story of the coronation of the 
man who was, to his certain knowledge, dying of 
cancer, but whose life he had managed to prolong for 
a few months, in order that he might reign* The 
Empress Frederick had insisted on sending for Morell 
Mackenzie, knowing that she could count on his 
loyalty, and had defied the German physicians in 
doing so. 

The law had, of course, provided that no member 



38 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

of the Royal House who was suffering from an incurable 
disease could be crowned, and her son, Wilhelm, was 
insistent on this point. 

Morell told me before he left England that he 
fully realized the perils of his position, and it is an 
actual fact that more than one attempt was made on 
his life while he was in the Palace. All his food had 
to be guarded from poison, for political feeling ran so 
high when it was known that he meant at all costs to 
save the Emperor Frederick that Wilhelm's supporters 
would willingly have removed the obstacles to their 
intrigue. 

On his return to England he was knighted, but it 
was an empty honour. The Empress Frederick showed 
an almost incredible ingratitude to the man who had 
helped her to attain her ambition, and stories were 
circulated which marred his career, and ultimately 
broke his heart. His death was a terrible grief 
to me. 

It was through Sir Morell Mackenzie that I first 
met some of the most notable figures of the artistic 
world of that time. His Thursday evening parties 
were famous for their gatherings of celebrities. At 
one of them I met Oscar Wilde. I thought him the 
oddest creature I had ever seen, with his long, golden 
hair, his black velvet knee-breeches and the sunflower 
in his buttonhole. Gilbert had just made him the 
hero of his Patience , and everyone was quoting the 
"Greenery yallery, Grosvenor Gallery . . ” etc, 
Mrs. Wilde was an even stranger figure than her 
husband, and dressed with a total disregard of taste. 
She was about to become a mother, and was evidently 
very proud of the fact, for instead of trying to conceal 
it as Victorian decorum demanded with voluminous 
draperies, she wore the tightest di?ess I have ever seen 
ornamented with a sash of vivid scarlet. The effect 
was startling to say the least. However, both husband 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 39 

and wife were tremendously popular and went every- 
where. 

Jessie Bond, then at the height of her fame in 
Gilbert and Sullivan productions and one of the “Three 
Little Maids", used to go to these Thursday evenings. 
She was a very charming woman, witty and amusing 
to talk to, and always made a great fuss of me. 



CHAPTER FOUR 


L OOKING back on it all it seems strange that the 
J step which was to lead me to the greatest happiness 
I have ever known in my life should have been taken 
in a moment of intense sorrow. 

When my husband went out of my life I was left 
practically penniless and with my little daughter to 
support. My mother came to my help at once and took 
us both to live with her, but I had to think of some 
means of making money, for she was not very well 
off, and there was Esme's education and future to 
think of. 

I realized that I must take up some sort of work, 
and racked my brains to decide what I could do well 
enough to be paid for it. I could play the piano quite 
well, but I was not optimistic as to a career on the 
concert platform. I did not care for the idea of going 
on the stage, and at that time very few women had 
even thought of going into business, and in any case 
I had had no training to fit me for secretarial work or 
anything of that sort. In the meantime the need for 
money was pressing, and I used to lie awake in my 
bedroom at the top of the house thinking about it 
night after night. 

Then one morning, when I was making a little 
dress for Esme, I had a flash of inspiration. Whatever 
I could or could not do I could make clothes. I would 
be a dressmaker. 

I was so excited at the plan that I could scarcely 
eat any lunch. My mother was not wildly enthusiastic 
about it. It would need capital, she told me, and there 
would be a lot of competition to fear. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 41 

But I would not be discouraged, I assured her that 
the outlay would be practically nothing as I would do 
everything myself, and that I had no intention of taking 
expensive premises. I would find my clients from 
our personal friends. 

The Hon. Mrs. Arthur Brand was my first. She 
came in to see us a few days after I had evolved my 
plan, and said that she had had an invitation to stay 
with Mrs. Panmuir Gordon, whose house-parties were 
famous. She wanted a new tea-gown to take with her, 
but was afraid there would not be time to fit it. 

“1 wish you would let me make you one/' I said. 
“I know I could get it done in time.” 

She was delighted at the idea. 

“I have always wanted you to make me a dress, 
because you make your own and your sister's so 
beautifully, but I have never liked to ask you,'' she told 
me. 

I began it right away, taking my inspiration from 
a tea-gown I had seen Letty Lind wear on the stage. 
It was all accordion pleated, and I did every stitch of 
it myself, nearly blinding myself working at night to 
get it finished in time. 

Mrs. Brand was charmed with it, and promised 
to tell everyone where she had got it. I still have the 
photograph of that first dress I made. Years later I 
hung it in my room at Hanover Square, and I took it 
with me both to Paris and New York, when I opened 
new branches of “Lucile”. I had a feeling that it was 
a good mascot to have it on the wall. 

The dress certainly brought me luck whether the 
photograph did or not, for within a few days after 
making it for Mrs. Brand every woman who had been 
a member of that house-party had given me orders 
for tea-gowns, and I was hardly able to cope with them. 

I studied the type of each one and designed a gown 
for her which I thought would harmonize with her 



42 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

individuality, and they were all immensely intrigued 
at rediscovering themselves in my eyes. I think that 
many designers of the younger school are far too 
inclined to turn out their models en masse, regardless 
of the special needs of the women who will wear them, 
and so they lack personality and interest. I always 
saw the woman, not the frock as detached from her, 
and so women loved my clothes, because women are 
above all other things personal in every thought and 
action. 

I explained this to the women who flocked to the 
little house in Davies Street, and they absorbed the 
theory at once. Everyone who heard of me wanted to 
have one of my “personal dresses”, and I bought an 
imposing order book, and soon its pages were half- 
filled. I could not afford an assistant and not only 
designed the dresses myself, but cut them out and 
sewed them, working far into the night. When they 
were finished I used to wrap them up and deliver 
them myself. 

I have often laughed, looking back at those early 
days of “Lucile”, remembering how the entire staff 
of the famous dressmaking house, which was to employ 
hundreds of workpeople, consisted of one litde girl, 
who used to cut out her models on the dining-room 
floor, with a watchful eye on the sticky fingers of her 
baby daughter. 

An American millionaire once told me that all 
great business successes sprang from a small beginning. 
Certainly nobody could have begun in a smaller way 
than I did, without capital, without help of any sort, 
and with no advertisement except the gossip of the 
women whose dresses I made, and who spread the 
pathetic story of the young wife who had been deserted 
and was trying to earn a living for herself and her 
little gM. 

By the end of die first six months of my venture I 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 43 

had made so much money that I was able to launch 
out and engage four girls. One of them was an expert 
fitter, who relieved me of the most tiresome part of 
the work and left me free to create new models. At 
that time nobody had ever heard or even thought of 
having mannequins, and it was not until many years 
later that I made dressmaking-history by staging the 
first mannequin parade. My first clients chose their 
dresses from sketches which I drew for them, and 
these were never copied for any other woman. 

I had my first big success when I was asked to 
design the dresses for the amateur performance of 
Diplomacy , which Lord Rosslyn got up for some 
charity. He was a very talented actor and took the 
principal part himself, my sister Elinor played Dora, 
and Mrs. William James took the part of the adven- 
turess. I designed beautiful dresses for them both, 
which created quite a sensation in London, and some- 
thing more than a sensation in Edinburgh, where the 
play was given for the second time, for they were pro- 
nounced “too daring” there and shocked some of the 
women in the audience. However, they brought me 
success. 

That was the very first play I ever dressed. I see 
it now as the stepping-stone which was to lead to 
designing all the costumes for some of the greatest 
successes that the London stage has ever seen, as well 
as for Ziegf eld's wonderful shows in New York. But 
none of them ever gave me the sense of triumph I 
felt when I looked at the programme of that amateur 
performance and read “Dresses designed by Mrs. 
James Wallace.” 

My sister's marriage was another event in the 
infancy of my business, for I made her dress and those 
of her bridesmaids. I forget now what they were like, 
but I know that the child bridesmaids had touches of 
yellow on their dresses, which caused a lot of comment. 



44 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

for it was the first fashionable wedding to make a 
departure from the traditional white. Elinor made a 
very lovely bride, and I had designed her a medieval 
head-dress which suited her to perfection. I thought 
that, as she walked down the steps of St. George's, 
Hanover Square, with Clayton Glyn her husband, 
she looked like the living incarnation of a fairy-tale 
princess. 

Other wedding orders followed my sister's. One 
of them was for Sir Ernest Cassel's daughter, Maud, 
who was marrying Wilfred Ashley. She was a strange 
girl, very brilliant, but subject to fits of intense depres- 
sion, and nervous and highly-strung to the last degree. 
She was, I think, a tragic example of the danger of 
having too much money, for she told me many times 
that she was insufferably bored with life. She had 
everything to make her happy, but was less happy 
than almost any other woman I have ever known. 
Later I got to recognise the same state of mind in 
many of the American heiresses I met. It is a tragedy 
for a young woman to have too little to wish for, for 
the real sorrow of all of us lies in the fulfilment of our 
desires, not in the quest for them. 

By this time I was building up a clientele which 
was growing too large to be confined within the limits 
of my mother's little house, and I decided to move to 
premises in Old Burling^pn Street, where there would 
be more room. I was particularly anxious to have a 
department for beautiful underclothes, as I hated the 
thought of my creations being worn over the ugly 
mm’s veiling or linen-cum-Swiss embroidery which 
was all that the really virtuous woman of those days 
permitted herself. With the arrogance which success 
was beginning to give me I vowed to change all that, 
and made plans for the day of chiffons and laces, of 
boudoir caps and transparent nightdresses. I was so 
sorry for the poor husbands, who had to see their wives 




ELINOR GLYN 

at the time she wrote Three Weeks 


[44 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 45 

looking so unattractive at night after taking off the 
romantic dresses I had created. 

So I started making underclothes as delicate as 
cobwebs and as beautifully tinted as flowers, and half the 
women in London flocked to see them, though they had 
not the courage to buy them at first. Those cunning 
litde lace motifs let in just over the heart, those saucy 
velvet bows on the shoulder might surely be the weapons 
of the woman who was “not quite nice” ? They all 
wanted to wear them, but they were not certain of 
their ground. They had to fly in the face of the con- 
ventional idea as to how a good woman went to bed 
at night — and it took a little coaxing for them to do it. 

Slowly one by one they slunk into the shop in a 
rather shamefaced way and departed carrying an 
inconspicuous parcel, which contained a crepe-de- 
Chine or a chiffon petticoat, and although one or two 
returned to bring the new purchases sorrowfully back 
because a Victorian husband had “put his foot down”, 
the majority came back to order more. 

Once I remember Jack Cumming came into the 
shop to call for his wife who was having a fitting. She 
had just left, but a pile of my newest and filmiest 
undies lay on the table in front of him. Picking them 
up he exclaimed wrathfully : 

“No virtuous woman would be seen in such things.” 

“I'm sorry you feel like that about it,” I told him, 
“because they are just going home to your wife, who 
has ordered them.” 

They did not come back, however, and the cheque 
for payment, although it was an unusually large one, 
arrived the next day. 

Adeline, Duchess of Bedford, was one of the most 
essentially “good” women I have ever known, but she 
made her goodness one of her greatest charms, for 
there was such a joyous spontaneous gaiety about her 
that endeared her to everyone. She came and saw my 



46 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

undies, that the frumps of the old school were railing 
so "improper”, but she was not in the least shocked at 
them* On the contrary she bought different sets to 
match every one of her dresses, and even ordered 
satin corsets in the same colours* I never heard that 
her virtue suffered in any way through this departure 
from Victorianism* 

Mrs. Freeman Thomas, who is now Lady Willing- 
don, was another woman who had a flair for dressing 
well, and she also wore my lovely underclothes. I 
remember one of the first things I made for her was 
a tea-gown of grey chiffon over a dress of grey brocade, 
trimmed with some of her priceless family lace. It 
had a wide sash of mauve, and the cuffs were finished 
off with big bands of sable. Underneath it she wore a 
mauve petticoat trimmed with the same lace. It was 
one of the most beautiful models I ever designed. 

With the move from Davies Street to 24, Old 
Burlington Street, I dropped the "Mrs. James Wallace” 
and blossomed out as "The Maison Lucile”, which 
sounded far more impressive. I engaged a diminutive 
page boy, who was to take round the parcels, and 
increased the workroom staff. 

It was about this time that I took on a little 
fourteen-year-old apprentice, Celia, who used to run 
errands and match silks, and generally make herself 
useful. Celia had the most wonderful head for business 
of anyone I have ever come across. She had not been 
with me for more than a few months when I discovered 
that she knew not only her own job, but everybody 
else's. Of course she was promoted and went through 
the different departments until she became my right 
hand in the days when "Lucile's” had branches in 
Paris, London and New York. 

I could always depend on Celia ; in the lqng years 
we worked together she never failed me once, and her 
loyalty and common sense were invaluable. When 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 47 

we opened in Paris it was Celia who went over with 
me and got the new branch on its feet. She taught 
herself French, in order to cope with the French fitters 
and midinettes, and when I had to return to England 
I knew that I could safely leave her there, certain that 
everything was being run as well as I could have run 
it myself. 

When we opened in New York Celia was sent over 
to choose the premises and get everything in readiness, 
and it was she who helped me to make it the successful 
venture it was. 

After being with me many years she married Mr. 
Rena, who is well-known in the restaurant world, and 
she at once set to work to learn his business as thoroughly 
as she learnt dressmaking. Her husband is now 
managing director of the Criterion. 

At about the same time I engaged Margaret and 
Elsie, two of the best saleswomen I ever had, and 
Edith, who was a wonderful fitter. They all remained 
with me through nearly the whole of my career as 
"Lucile”, and I was deeply grateful to them for the 
loyal service they gave me. 

It was the production of The Liars that finally 
established my name, and broughtoxe in a long series 
of plays to dress. Sir Charles /Wyndham, who was 
responsible for the production, had heard of the 
"personality dresses” I was creating to harmonize 
with the characteristics my clients suggested to me, 
and he conceived the idea of having the same sort of 
thing for the play. So he asked me to call and see him, 
and the upshot of our conversation was that I went 
away with an order to design dresses for Irene Vanbrugh, 
Mary Moore and Cynthia Brooke. 

At that time nearly all stage dresses were heavy, 
thick affairs, which were supposed to express magni- 
ficence, but in reality gave their wearers a clumsy 
appearance. Nobody had yet thought of the possibilities 



48 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

of chiffon, or if they had they had dismissed the idea, 
as such a material was said to be too clinging for stage 
use* When I told Irene Vanbrugh that I intended to 
make her a dress of buttercup yellow chiffon, she 
looked doubtful. 

"You have a lovely figure,” I told her, "Why try 
to blur its lines with something that hangs in heavy, 
lifeless folds?” 

In the end she agreed with me, and I promised to 
make her a dress that would create a sensation. When 
it was finished she looked radiant, and overwhelmed 
me with thanks. But it was very nearly the occasion 
of a rift in the production. I had made Mary Moore 
a dress of coffee-coloured lace, embroidered with 
sequins. It seemed to me to suit her perfectly, but 
it had long sleeves, which I had not known she par- 
ticularly disliked. She refused to wear it, said that I 
was trying to make her look old and that she could not 
possibly be anything but self-conscious in it. I was 
distressed about it for all this took place at the dress 
rehearsal, and there was no time to make another. 

Fortunately for me Sir Charles Wyndham took my 
side and said the dress was charming, and that it was 
on no account to be changed. He did not, he said, 
intend to have his play spoilt by Mary Moore's whims. 
So there was nothing more to be said and Mary Moore 
wore it for the first night. She had one of the greatest 
triumphs of her career, and generously wrote and told 
me so, completely taking back her previous objections. 
After that I made many dresses for her and she always 
let me have my own way in designing them. 

Another milestone of those early days I remember 
very well was the perfect trousseau I made for Mrs. 
Willie James to take to Russia with her, when she went 
to attend the coronation of the late Czar. There were 
at least nine or ten evening dresses and the dresses she 
.wore for the Coronation, and the Court trains and 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


49 


cloaks, house-gowns for morning wear and dresses 
and coats for every occasion* I sacrificed nearly a 
week's sleep to get them done in time, but the result 
was worth it, for after that orders poured in, and many 
of the foreign women, who had been there for the 
coronation celebrations, came over to England specially 
to have dresses designed by me* 

Mrs. Willie James was a beautiful woman, and 
she had the art of wearing her clothes perfectly and an 
indefinable something that made her very attractive. 
She always looked very elegant and very distinguished, 
and as a hostess she has never been surpassed. At 
that time she was the leader of fashion in London, for 
in those days fashions were set by just one or two 
women, and the rest followed suit. Lily Langtry was 
another who was always the first to wear any new mode, 
but her taste was more extreme than that of Mrs. Willie 
James, and women were not so ready to follow her 
however much they might admire her distinctive type 
of dressing. 

The fact that I dressed Mrs. Willie James was in 
itself a claim to supremacy, and as she wore my creations 
at all the Court functions she attended I knew that 
they could not fail to cause comment, and send me 
other clients. I had heard that the dresses she took 
with her to Russia had been immensely admired, so 
I was rather surprised when she came to see me the 
day after her return to London and seemed depressed 
and unlike herself. She told me that she had not been 
able to shake off a feeling of sadness since the coro- 
nation ceremony of the Czar. She had, she said, seen 
an extraordinary shadow extended over the Czar 
during the whole of the proceedings. It was, she 
explained, like a gigantic, human figure, with its hand 
outstretched, but quite nebulous, and it struck her as 
indescribably sinister. As she had never been in the 
least psychic and had a strong aversion to dabbling in 



50 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

the occult she had been greatly troubled by it, par- 
ticularly as she feared it might have some warning to 
convey to herself or her family, 

I assured her that I was quite certain that such an 
apparition, if indeed she had really seen it, and not 
imagined she had done so (she strenuously denied 
this), could have no relation to anyone but the Czar, 
She agreed and told me that she was quite sure it had 
meant to convey some warning, and that she felt she 
ought to tell him of it at some future time. Whether 
she ever did so or not I do not know, for I forgot about 
it until recently. 

It was, I think, about this time that I first made 
the acquaintance of “the beautiful Mrs. Atherton”, as 
everyone called her. She came to me and asked me to 
design her several dresses. She was, as I remember 
her, a very lovely woman, for the train of tragedies 
which culminated in her being found dead, shot by her 
own hand in her flat in Shepherds Market some years 
ago, had not then touched her life. It was before the 
notorious divorce case, which ruined her and lost her 
both her friends and her position in society, and she 
was then perfectly happy and adored her little son, 
who was a very handsome and intelligent little boy. 
He often came to the showrooms with his mother and 
would wait patiently while she was fitted. 

One day she came alone and asked the fitter to be 
as quick as possible as she was in a hurry. She had 
promised to take her little boy shopping to choose 
his birthday present, and he was to call for her in the 
carriage. While her dress was being tried on a 
messenger arrived with the dreadful news that there 
had been an accident. Mrs. Atherton's horses had 
shied at a performing bear and bolted, overturning the 
carriage. Her little boy had been instantly killed. The 
news was broken to her as gently as possible, but from 
that moment she was a changed woman. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 51 

The fitter told me afterwards that she had been 
surprised at the calm way in which Mrs. Atherton had 
taken the terrible shock. She had gone deathly white, 
but had not cried out and had even helped the girl to 
unpin her dress. When she left the room she thanked 
her in the usual way. I know that it was the calm of 
utter despair, for her heart was broken. Had her 
child lived I am certain that the story of her life would 
have been very different. As it was I do not think she 
cared what became of her, and only sought to forget 
her sorrow by any means. 



CHAPTER FIVE 


AS time went on the business got far too big for the 
l \ house in Old Burlington Street, which had seemed 
such a courageous venture when we took it, and I set 
about finding more suitable premises. It was not easy, 
for London's commercial area was infinitely more 
restricted in those days than it is now, and whole 
streets and squares, which have now been turned into 
shops and offices, were then given over to private 
residences. I found several houses that I would have 
liked, but was not allowed to rent them for business 
purposes, and I grew quite discouraged in the quest. 

Then, one day I was sent by an agent to Sir George 
Dashwood's house at 17, Hanover Square, and imme- 
diately fell in love with it. It was a glorious old house, 
with wonderfully carved chimney-pieces and Angelica 
Kauffmann ceilings, whose beauty would, I felt, be an 
unfailing source of inspiration to me. Although the 
rent was considerably more than I had intended to 
pay, I signed the lease there and then, and in little 
over a week we were installed. 

In that lovely setting I was able to express myself 
as I had never done before, and my clothes became the 
talk of London. I rarely came now into the showrooms 
myself, for I had an excellent staff of saleswomen to 
deal with clients. I had my own room set apart from 
the others, and here I would shut myself up for hours 
with yards of material, out of which I would create 
tea-gowns and ball dresses, dainty little frocks for 
debutantes and sophisticated models that looked the 
last word in wickedness. 

Sometimes I would find the mood come on me when 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


53 


I would turn out two or three dresses in a day, at others 
inspiration would come slowly and I would pass the 
whole day making one dress, shut away by myself, 
with a girl stationed at the door to keep out intruders, 
for I had a hatred of the least interruption while I 
worked* At these moments I was an artist, nothing 
more* As the sculptor sees his dreams translated into 
line, and the painter sees his in terms of colour, so 
mine were expressed in the drapery of a wisp of 
chiffon, or the fall of a satin fold* It is a lesser form 
of art, I know, but to me it meant a great deal, my 
life's work, and I was tremendously in earnest over 
every dress I created. 

It would be at about this time, I think, that I first 
met Margot Asquith* She walked into the shop one 
morning and asked for me. 

“I hear that you design the most beautiful dresses 
in London," she began with her characteristic frank- 
ness. “Personally, I hate English clothes, so I get 
nearly everything I wear from Paris, but I would like 
to have one dress from you, and if I like it I will get 
some more." 

Probably if anyone else had spoken so bluntly I 
should have been offended, but there was something 
so disarming in her candour and her smile was so 
charming that I succumbed to it at once* I was inter- 
ested, too, at the prospect of creating clothes for this 
vivid, restless creature, and I realized that she could 
wear dresses which not one woman in a thousand, 
could carry off. 

I made her a tea-gown. It was the first of many, 
for she was delighted with it. She used to come to the 
showroom and sit and talk to me. Margot Asquith 
was one of the very few people whom I liked to have 
by me when I was working. She stimulated me with 
extraordinary vitality, although she had exactly the 
reverse effect on many of her acquaintances. It is 



54 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

impossible to be unconscious of her magnetism; either 
one is recharged by it or exhausted. She was exceed- 
ingly kind to me and sent all her friends to have their 
dresses designed by me. 

By this time although the business was growing 
by leaps and bounds I was beginning to feel the lack 
of ready capital behind me, for I had often to lay out 
hundreds of pounds in materials and there was an 
enormous wage bill to meet each week. I was very 
young to bear the responsibility of it all, and I used 
to lie awake at night worrying over the difficulties of 
making my clients pay their bills. The worst of it 
was that at least two-thirds of them were my own 
personal friends, which made it impossible to press 
for payment. They were all rich women, and they 
could never have realized the amount of worry their 
bills caused me. This is one of the most serious 
handicaps which dressmakers have to face, for it seems 
to be an established fact that the richer people are the 
more difficult it is to make them pay their bills. At 
one time I was nearly ruined by the amount of money 
outstanding, and I dared not press for it lest I should 
lose my clients. 

I remember one dire afternoon in the early days 
in Hanover Square. It was the day on which I had 
to pay all the workpeople, and I had not a penny in 
the bank. I went into my room and faced the prospect 
of bankruptcy and the end of my dreams with all the 
courage I could summon up. There was nothing 
else to be done. It was a very black moment and I 
suppose my face must have reflected something of 
what I was feeling when I went out into the showroom 
again. I was just going to summon up the saleswomen 
and tell them what had happened when the door 
opened and Lord de L. W. walked in, 

“You look very unhappy,. madame, what is the 
matter V* he asked me. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 55 

There seemed to be no use in hiding what every- 
one would have to know the next day, and I told 
him, 

"How much do you want?” he asked, "I can 
easily lend you £1,000,” and went to my bank and 
signed for an overdraft which was paid back within 
a week, and from that day the Maison Lucile was 
saved. Such a lack never occurred again. 

But it had given me a dreadful jar, and a little while 
later I turned the business into a company and took 
in Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, who by that time was 
becoming a very dear friend, and Mr, Miles of the firm 
of Jocelyn, Miles & Blow, 

It was a great relief to me, for it left me free to 
leave the business side of it, which had always been a 
worry and responsibility to me, and concentrate on 
designing models. 

With the capital they brought in we were able to 
make several improvements and new fitting-rooms 
were added. In connection with these I remember 
that one of them was the source of much amuse- 
ment to the girls. They discovered that there was a 
hole at one corner of the staircase, which was just 
covered with paper. By lifting this they were able to 
see into the fitting-room without being observed 
themselves. 

One client, a famous actress, used to meet one of 
her admirers regularly there, unaware that the love 
scene between them was being watched by curious 
eyes. One day, hearing the sound of suppressed laughter 
on the stairs, I went to investigate and found half a 
do^en girls gathered round the peep-hole. I was very 
angry and had the wall plastered up at once. 

Much as I loved the house at 17, Hanover Square, 
we did not stay very long there. Everything was going 
smoothly and we were making record profits when 
suddenly Sir George Dashwood decided to return to 



56 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

the house himself, and gave us notice to leave in a 
few weeks. We were in a very difficult position, for 
it was practically impossible to find suitable premises 
at such short notice, and worst of all, it was just before 
the Courts, and we were in the throes of making 
presentation dresses. The move could not have come 
at a more unfortunate time. After desperate efforts 
we managed to get a roof over our heads at 14, George 
Street, but we were dreadfully cramped there, and 
could not hope to do even half the business we had 
done at the Hanover Square house. There was no 
place to show the models, and very few fitting-rooms, 
but the house was the best we could find, and very 
regretfully we moved in there. 

It did us a great deal of harm, for our enemies 
immediately spread the story that we were going 
bankrupt and had had to give up the house in Hanover 
Square because we could no longer pay the rent. We 
lost ever so many of our regular clients through these 
reports, and because they did not care for the incon- 
venience of the smaller house. I have always been 
grateful to Margot Asquith for the loyalty she showed 
me at this bad time. She not only continued coming 
to me herself, but persuaded all her personal friends 
to refute the gossip that was going the rounds about 
our failure, and secured me many new orders. 

In the end, after a great deal of trouble, we found 
the house that was exactly right for us — in Hanover 
Square again, only at number 23 this time. It was 
even more suited to us than 17 had been, for there 
were more rooms, and the big ballroom was ideal for 
the main showroom. We had to wait for nearly two 
years while the other tenant's lease expired, but it was 
worth it. 

In the meantime I turned over another page in 
my life. 

In 1900 I was married to Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 57 

During the years in which I was so busy making 
myself independent, and taking care of my little 
daughter, I managed to find the time for many love 
affairs. Some of them are very sweet to remember 
now. A French writer once said that “the follies of 
our youth are the fires which warm our old age”, and 
it is true, I think. I am grateful now for those years 
in which I lived my life to its fullest extent. But all 
my loves led up to my marriage with Cosmo, the great 
love of my life. 

In those days it was almost impossible for a woman, 
young, good-looking and free, to lack suitors, so I 
hope I shall not be accused of vanity in saying that I 
had many proposals. It was very much easier for a 
young woman to get love from men then than it seems 
to be now, for the attitude to love of the present gener- 
ation is so different from that of mine. When I was 
a young woman marriage meant something more than 
it does to-day, and though there were exceptions, like 
my own first marriage, the majority of marriages were 
happy. Women were far more necessary to men in 
those days than they are now, and so men tried to hold 
them and set themselves to please them. They kept 
romance alive in a hundred little ways, sent flowers 
and presents, waited on them and were made miserable 
by the least snub. 

I am not only writing now of my own experiences, 
but during my career as a dressmaker I saw the pro- 
gress of hundreds of the love affairs of other women. 
I saw girls who were not particularly beautiful and 
had only the charm of youth and health and vitality 
married and loved devotedly by men who had every- 
thing to offer, and I saw the women who were rigidly 
cold-shouldered by their own sex as “not quite nice” 
making fortunes as the wages of sin. Those were the 
days of the great courtesans, for whom men ruined 
themselves, the days when a lover would come into the 



58 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

showroom and order a thousand guinea sable coat as 
a peace offering after a slight quarrel. 

The Victorian woman was far more fortunate as 
a wife and as a mistress than the girl of to-day. But 
she was also, I think, far wiser. She knew when to 
refuse and that is an art which her successor has for- 
gotten. We were all taught certain good, old-fashioned 
maxims in love, handed from one generation to another. 
“Men never care for anything they are sure of. They 
get bored with obvious devotion,” was one of them. 
“Never go after a man, let him come after you,” was 
another. “Refuse him two kisses out of every three” 

. . . and so on. 

Every woman learnt them and put them into 
practice, for they were all part of the technique of 
love as we understood it. But they have gone out of 
fashion to-day. I was repeating them to a young girl 
of my acquaintance the other day, and although she 
looked thoughtful she assured me that the present 
generation of men would not react at all favourably 
to them. 

“What would be the good of refusing two kisses 
out of every three when the woman next door would 
be ready to give him four ?” she asked. 

I saw her point. 

I have nothing but admiration for the modem girl. 
I love her independence, and her self-assurance and 
crisp outlook on life, but I think she errs on the side 
of asking too little from men, and giving them too 
much. There is something in us all that makes us 
inclined to undervalue the thing we can get too easily, 
and man was primevally intended to be the hunter. 
When he finds no resistance he loses interest in the 
quest. The Victorian woman knew that her strength 
fey in her restraint, she knew when and how to say 
“No”, and she ostracized the woman who offended 
against her code, not so much out of prudishness as 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 59 

because she was a blackleg who put down the standard 
of love. 

In the days when I was young we took love far 
more seriously than it seems to be taken nowadays. 
If a man asked a woman to marry him and share his 
life it really meant “Till death do us part”, and if she 
was a woman of a different type and he made her his 
mistress he recognized a sense of responsibility towards 
her and provided for her future. Love has lost much 
of its romance since it began to be tossed about so 
freely between men and women. The modern man 
will not do as much for women as his father and grand- 
father would have done when they were young, but 
then the modern girl does not expect as much of him 
as her grandmother would have expected. She is 
ready to meet him more than half-way, and that I 
think is her mistake. But it is very easy to be wise 
and moralize over other people’s mistakes, and had 
I begun life forty years later I expect I should have 
done just the same as the girls of to-day. 

Another truth that I have to admit is that life was 
very much simpler at the beginning of this century 
than it is to-day, and the young men of those days did 
not have to contend with the economic difficulties that 
have come about since the War. Nowadays we are 
all so much occupied in keeping our heads above 
water that much of the fineness of life has had to go by 
the! board. 

One thing I do sincerely envy is the freedom of the 
modem girl, for I was one of the generation who fought 
so hard to get it for her. I shall never forget the wall 
of prejudice which I had to storm. To begin with I 
was one of the first women, if not actually the very 
first of my class, to go into the business world, and I 
lost caste terribly in doing it at the start of my venture. 
Old family friends came and solemnly warned me and 
my mother of the utter impossibility of my going into 



6o DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

"trade” ... the very word was spoken with bated 
breath, as though it was only one shade better than 
going in for crime. I was told that nobody would 
know me if I "kept a shop”, it would be bad enough 
for a man but for a woman it would mean social ruin. 

However, I ran the gauntlet of their pained sur- 
prise as I had to make a future for my beautiful Esme — 
now the wife of Lord Halsbury — and when they had 
recovered from the first shock of my "obstinacy” they 
came round to my point of view, for you can always 
win over your opponents provided you are sure enough 
of your own ground, and I was perfectly sure of mine. 
Gradually the new venture which had been regarded 
by so many of my mother’s friends as a lamentable 
eccentricity on my part came to be accepted as an 
established fact, and the women whom I had fitted in 
my workrooms in the morning were eager to have me 
as a guest at dinner in their homes at night, but I 
always refused these invitations because, if X accepted, 
my clients expected 5 per cent off their bills. 

But I could never be presented at Court, because 
I was "in trade”, even after I married Cosmo, Not 
that I ever wanted to be, for I have a horror of for- 
malities, and have always been rather a Bohemian, 
shunning social obligations rather than seeking them, 
but he would have liked me to go to Court with him, 
and so I was sorry. 

Which brings me back again to my second marriage. 

I had met Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon very soon after 
divorcing my first husband, and he fell in love with 
me from the first moment he saw me. But at that 
time I had no intention of marrying again, much as 
I liked him, and apart from that there was another 
obstacle to any engagement between us in the person 
of fais mother, who was an ardent follower of the High 
Church party and looked upon divorce as anathema. 
No son of hers, she said,, should ever marry a woman 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 6l 

who had divorced her husband, no matter how much 
she had been wronged, I knew how devoted Cosmo 
was to his mother, and made up my mind that I would 
never be the cause of a quarrel between them, especi- 
ally as she was very delicate and it was known that 
a shock might prove fatal. So I turned a deaf ear to 
his proposals, and put all thoughts of marriage to him 
out of my head. 

In the early spring of igoo I was very run down, 
for I had been working for years without a holiday, 
and in the end I grew really ill so that my doctor ordered 
me complete rest for three months. I went with my 
mother to Monte Carlo, where I had a glorious time 
basking in the sunshine of the Mediterranean. After 
a few weeks I was so much better that I ceased living 
the life of an invalid, and began to go out and enjoy 
myself at the Casino and at the fetes which were given 
at the Palace by the Prince of Monaco, a jolly old man 
with the bluff manners of a country farmer, and a 
passion for deep sea fishing. 

At one of these I renewed the acquaintance, which 
had been begun in London, with Lord C . . . In the 
ensuing weeks he fell very much in love with me and 
several times asked me to marry him. In the end I 
said "Yes", though I stipulated that I did not want 
our engagement to be announced until after our return 
to London. But we had calculated without the gossips. 
Of course the news leaked out. By this time the season 
was ending at Monte Carlo and my mother and a girl 
friend and I went on to Venice. Lord C . , . followed 
us there. A few days afterwards I received a telegram 
from Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon saying: "If you are 
going to marry anyone it is going to be me." 

I had scarcely got over the surprise of it when 
Cosmo himself arrived at the hotel. His mother had 
died and he was determined that no one else should 
stand in the way of our marriage. When I saw him I 



6a 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


realised that I had never really wanted to marry any- 
body but Cosmo, but I was rather distressed at the 
thought of explaining it all to Lord C . . . However, 

I was saved the trouble for he and Cosmo met in the 
lounge, and after a dreadful quarrel challenged one 
another to a duel. In the end my mother made them 
both see reason, especially as I, not being able to 
think of any other tactics, went to bed and said I was 
very ill with the worry of it all. Lord C . . . left the 
hotel, but he never spoke to Cosmo after that although 
they often met when we returned to London. 

So on May 24th I became Lady Duff Gordon. We 
were married in Venice from the house of Mr. and 
Mrs. Eden, friends of Cosmo's, and the wedding took 
place at the British Consul’s, and afterwards we went 
to a large reception in their dream garden, on an island 
near Venice. I shall always remember the beauty of 
it and the scent of the roses. But it was funny that I, 
who had created so many lovely wedding dresses for 
other brides, should have chosen to be married myself 
in quite an old frock. I was so happy, and I wanted 
to forget all about clothes and anything that reminded 
me of the business for the time. 

We spent our honeymoon in Abasia, and bathed 
all day long. I was very fond of swimming and I 
think that Cosmo was quite surprised that I, whom 
he had imagined so typically feminine and clothes* 
loving, had brought only two dresses with me, and one 
of them was a bathing dress. I could beat him at 
swimming and diving too, to his great astonishment. 
The reason was, of course, that I used to swim nearly 
every day in Jersey, and was only too glad to have the 
opportunity of doing so again. 

Those days at Abazzia were some of the happiest 
in my Efe, for we were both very much in love, and 
the place was the most perfect background for a honey- 
moon. We both hated coming back to London, but 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 63 

I did not want to give up my business career, and I 
could not leave it for very long. There was also the 
move to 23, Hanover Square to be considered, and I 
knew that I should have to be back for this, as it would 
entail endless planning and there was a great deal to 
be done to the house in the way of decoration and 
furniture before it could be ready for us. 



CHAPTER SIX 


I SHALL never forget the thrill of seeing my name, 
“Lucile", outside the beautiful old house in Hanover 
Square; it seemed the embodiment of all my dreams* 
I told Margot Asquith so, and she kissed me affec- 
tionately. 

“Dear Lucy, you will go much further than that," 
she said. “The time will come when you will be the 
greatest dress designer in the world. All you need to 
do is to impress yourself on people by setting a high 
value on your own gifts. People tell me Im clever, 
and that is where my cleverness comes in, making 
them think am." 

I remember her so well as she said this, sitting on 
one of the grey chairs I had installed in the salon, 
waving her long, slender hands, with her finely-cut 
profile thrown out vividly against the grey satin 
curtain. 

“I should like to sketch you as you are now," I 
said impulsively. 

“What you are going to do is to design me a dress," 
she replied, “You know I am supposed to be lucky 
to people, and I am going to be lucky to you. The 
very first dress you make in this house is going to be 
for me." 

I worked hard at it, for she was very exigeante . She 
would never have any model the least like anyone 
else’s. No good even to try to persuade her to adapt 
a design which some other womam had launched. 

“I may be plain, but at least I'm original," she 
would say, “and I mean to look it." 

So I used to create dresses which expressed to me 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 65 

her own vital, stimulating personality, and feel ridicu- 
lously pleased with any praise she gave me, for that 
is one of the things about Margot, you always feel 
quite disproportionately pleased when she takes any 
notice of you. 

By this time my fame had spread, and the Square 
would be lined with carriages every morning and 
afternoon, while in the discreet little fitting-rooms 
would be women of all ages waiting to consult me. 
Sometimes I would take a peep at them as they came 
in, and if I thought they would never be able to do me 
justice I would send one of the girls to tell them that 
Lucile was too busy for any consultations that day. 
Very often they did not come back, for they had caught 
a glimpse of my dresses, and found them too revo- 
lutionary for their liking. It seems so silly now that 
we have just got over wearing skirts above our knees 
and showing our backbone below the waist to think 
that those demure little morning dresses and diaphanous 
tea-gowns I made were once considered by many 
people “too daring ” ; but they were. Matchmaking 
mothers would stare anxiously at their daughters when 
I had dressed them in something that showed every 
line of their lithe young bodies and murmur : 

“ Are you quite sure, dear Lady Duff Gordon, that 
it does not look too suggestive?” 

As if there could be anything “suggestive” in youth 
and grace and beauty. 

But in spite of the fact that I dressed royal ladies, 
and so was smiled on by the immediate Court circle, 
I shocked a great many people, who brought against 
me the terrible indictment (in those days) of making 
“stagey” clothes. 

I took it as a compliment, for in those days virtue 
was too often expressed by dowdiness, and I had no 
use for the dull, stiff, boned-bodiced brigade. I had 
a message for the women I dressed. I was the first 



66 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


dressmaker to bring joy and romance into clothes, I 
was a pioneer. I loosed upon a startled London, a 
London of flannel underclothes, woollen stockings 
and voluminous petticoats, a cascade of chiffons, of 
draperies as lovely as those of Ancient Greece, of 
softly-rounded breasts (I brought in the brassiere in 
opposition to the hideous corset of the time, which 
was distorting women's figures) and draped skirts 
which opened to reveal slender legs. If I never did 
anything else in my life I showed the world that a 
woman's leg can be a thing of beauty, instead of a 
“limb" (in the correct parlance of those days), which 
was only spoken of in the privacy of the fitting-room. 
I don't think that I spread a cult of “immoral dressing", 
a charge which some of the old dowagers accused me 
of, but I did get rid of a lot of false modesty. 

Incidentally I made history as far as dressmaking 
is concerned. The evolution of the mannequin was 
brought about in my grey salons in Hanover Square. 
Down the steps into that beautiful Adams room, with 
its Angelica Kauffmann ceiling, its gilt chairs and 
couches that had been brought over from Paris, tripped 
the first of a long line of sylphs, destined to reach 
down the years and to ^survive so long as there are 
dressmakers, whose purpose it is to lure women into 
buying more dresses than they can afford. 

To-day you have dress parades in every shop in 
Paris and London, where the latest models are dis- 
played on the aristocratic shoulders of some Russian 
Princess whose elegance is calculated to encourage a 
due humility in the hearts of the rich bourgeoise, in 
Tooting or Balham, where Lizzie or Hetty does her 
best to emulate the walk of Mr. Cochran's young ladies 
to beguile the suburban housewife's afternoon. But 
When I moved into Hanover Square a dress parade 
Was a thing unheard of. 

In those days one paid a visit to one's dressmaker 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 67 

and was received into the uncompromising atmosphere 
of a shop, with hard chairs, a few unbecoming mirrors 
and a door, which opened on to a little fitting-room. 
Nobody had thought of developing the social side of 
choosing clothes, of serving tea and imitating the set- 
ting of a drawing-room. Trying on, or selecting 
clothes, was a thing of as much secrecy as fitting a 
wooden leg might be expected to be. 

In many of the then fashionable dressmakers' 
establishments the models were displayed on horrid 
lay figures — dreadful affairs of sawdust and wax faces, 
calculated to inspire a positive revolt against whatever 
dress they happened to be attired in. Then, greatly 
daring, some resourceful soul conceived the idea in 
Paris of having living models. 

But there was no parade, oh ! dear no 1 nothing so 
frivolous. Remember, they were fighting prejudice. 
A good woman had to look good, or her virtue was 
not to be believed in. There must be nothing which 
might shock the susceptibilities of the grandes dames 
who visited the salons, nothing which might suggest 
that the poor little mannequin had a personality of 
her own, that she was capable of any more emotion 
than the sawdust dummy, which she replaced. She 
must not show the glow of youthful flesh, or the curves 
of young ankles. So to prevent it they encased her 
in a garment of rigid black satin, reaching from chin 
to feet, which were shod in unappetizing laced boots. 
Even the most nervous mamma could safely take her 
son with her to the dressmaker's when temptation 
appeared in such unalluring guise, that is to say, if 
it could be called temptation at all, for as a guarantee 
of the respectability of the establishment the director 
could be relied upon to choose only the plainest of 
girls to show off his creations. 

I shall never forget being taken to see the models 
at a famous house in Paris and the positive shock I 



68 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


felt when I saw lovely evening dresses in pale shades 
of rose and blue being worn by girls whose arms and 
necks, in dingy black satin, emerged from the low-cut 
decolletes. I decided that nothing on earth would 
induce me to show such atrocities. 

Slowly the idea of a mannequin parade, which would 
be as entertaining to watch as a play, took shape in my 
mind. I would have glorious, goddess-like girls, who 
would walk to and fro dressed in my models, displaying 
them to the best advantage to an admiring audience 
of women. After I had visualized it all, the rest 
seemed possible. I set about looking for pretty girls, 
not so easy in those days as it would be now. At the 
beginning of this century there were outstanding beauties, 
but the majority of girls, and certainly of working- 
girls, were not one quarter as good-looking as they are 
to-day. You might go out into the street then and see 
not more than four pretty women in a whole morning, 
whereas now at least one in every ten will have a 
piquant, pleasing face, and one in every thirty or 
forty will be really lovely. The general standard in 
women's looks has improved enormously, which I 
think supplies one reason why a very beautiful woman 
does not arouse as much attention to-day as in those 
days when beautiful women were few and far between. 

It was some time before I succeeded in finding my 
mannequins, six of them, who would be able to do 
justice to my dresses, and meanwhile I gave my whole 
attention to preparing the mise-enscine for this first 
dress parade. I had a soft, rich carpet laid down in 
the big showroom, and beautiful, grey brocade curtains 
to tone with it were hung across the windows. At 
one end of the room I had a stage, a miniature affair, 
all hung with misty olive chiffon curtains, as the back- 
, ground, which created the atmosphere I wanted. 

Then I sent out the invitations on dainty little 
cards, keeping the illusion that I was inviting my 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 69 

friends to some afternoon party rather than to a place 
of business. All my clients were curious to see this 
new idea of Lucile's and I do not believe there was 
one refusal. I realized that on this parade of mine I 
would stand or fall, and as the day drew near I was 
terribly anxious. Suppose that it should be a failure 
and I should be exposed to the ridicule of those who 
were jealous of my success so early-in life ! I pictured 
the unkind witticisms at my expense, and the biting 
comments on my ambitious scheme. I was little more 
than a girl then, and like all young people I was really 
very sensitive under my air of extreme self-possession. 
However, it was no good worrying, for I had gone too 
far to draw back, and I summoned up all my courage. 

Meanwhile I had found my mannequins. 

Oh! the coaching and the anxious thought I gave 
them. The hair and the hands were soon set right by 
sending them to my own hairdresser's. That cheered 
me up, for slowly I saw my chrysalides' wings beginning 
to appear. Then I set about teaching them to walk 
as I imagined young goddesses should walk. (The 
characteristic, languorous, insolent glide of the man- 
nequins of to-day was a later development; I hate it 
and would never have allowed my girls to adopt it.) 
I used to make them walk up and down the showroom 
with books on their heads until they had acquired a 
perfect poise of head and shoulders. When my six 
had achieved the art of walking beautifully the battle 
was won. Feminine psychology did the rest. Is there 
a woman in the world who will not respond in her 
own personality to the influence of lovely clothes? 
I realized that here was a complete metamorphosis — 
those six simple young girls had become the incar- 
nation of enchanting womanhood. With amused eyes 
I watched them develop a hundred little airs and 
graces, watched them copy the peeresses and famous 
actresses who came into my salons, until it became 



70 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

second nature to them to look and behave like women 
whose existence had been unknown to them a few short 
weeks before. 

No man can possibly realize how women are 
influenced by the clothes they wear. Put even the 
plainest woman into a beautiful dress and uncon- 
sciously she will try to live up to it. It is as if for her 
the designer has created a new personality, her every 
movement reflects an increased self-confidence, a new 
joy of living. Women can be just as surely starved for 
want of pretty clothes as they can be for want of food 
and I would advise many husbands to reflect on this. 
Even the best of wives and mothers, the most econom- 
ical housewives, know what it is to long for something 
beautiful to wear with a positive hunger if it is denied 
them. Many a rift in the matrimonial lute could be 
saved with the present of a new dress. 

At last the great day of my first parade — the first 
real mannequin parade ever held — arrived. 

The showroom was crowded. Princess Alice, the 
dearest, most human of all my royal patrons, sat near 
the front. I think she knew I was nervous, for she 
gave my hand an affectionate litde squeeze, and told 
me how she was looking forward to seeing the models. 
Ellen Terry was there, kind and thoughtful, helping 
late arrivals to find their places ; Lily Langtry, so 
beautiful that she made everyone turn to look at her, 
as she came in with much more of a regal entry than 
the several royal ladies who were present. Then there 
was the Duchess of Westminster and Margot Asquith, 
young then and rather noisy, but always vivid and 
amusing, and ever so many more whom I have for- 
gotten. It would be easier, in fact, to say that society 
was present en masse , at least feminine society, for as 
yet no man had even thought of visiting such an enter- 
tainment. It was many years afterwards that I had 
my first male visitor to a dress parade, and he was 




17 , HANOVER SQUARE 

my first big venture where I started "Mannequin” Parades 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 71 

Mr* Asquith, who had accompanied his wife, so in 
love with her was he and ready to make her least wish 
his law* He sat calmly through the show, I remember, 
though I do not think he gave much attention to the 
models* But I am digressing* 

This first parade of mine, in addition to the man- 
nequins, originated another custom which has been 
in use ever since — the naming of different models. 
Before that they were generally referred to as “the pink 
silk" or “the black velvet", or even by numbers* It 
offended my sense of the dramatic that some creation 
of mine, the expression of a mood, should be spoken 
of only as “number nine", or whatever it might be. 
So I gave them all names and personalities of their 
own. How they made my audience smile as they were 
called out one by one. “The Captain with Whiskers", 
“When Passion's Thrall is O'er", “Give me Your 
Heart", “Do You Love Me?" “Gowns of Emotion", 
I called them and they caught the fancy of all those 
women who sat and watched the girls from Balham 
and Bermondsey showing them how they ought to 
walk. I shall never forget the long-drawn breath of 
admiration that rippled round the room as the cur- 
tains parted slowly and the first of my glorious; girls 
stepped out on to the stage, pausing to show herself 
a moment before floating gracefully down the room 
to a burst of applause. 

“Who was she? Where had she come from?" 
The questions and conjectures flew from one to the 
other, as the tall figure of this young Diana, five foot 
eleven of loveliness (it was the day of tall women and 
gracious curves), crowned with a coronet of golden 
hair swept along. Her beautiful head was. held proud 
and erect, her dress clung t<? her long, slender limbs, 
jewels glittered on her neck and arms, for I had 
plundered my own jewel case and that of my sister, in 
order that nothing should be wanting in the picture. 



72 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

After her followed five others, each, it seemed, lovelier 
than the last. 

There was never such a triumph for me as that 
wonderful afternoon ! For hours afterwards my head 
rang with the applause and the showers of congratu- 
lations which these women, the richest and the greatest 
in the country, lavished on me. Orders flowed in by 
the dozen, so that the saleswomen could hardly cope 
with them. My star had risen: I knew that from that 
moment my career as a dressmaker would be smiled 
upon by fortune. As for my mannequins, they became 
famous in twenty-four hours. The next day a pro- 
cession of stage door “johnnies" waited for them to 
come out. I had to send them sternly away. That 
audience of women had talked to good purpose. There 
was not one of those six first mannequins who could 
not have made a brilliant marriage then and there. 

Of course the papers were enthusiastic for the 
next few days over this novel dress show and I still 
have boxes of press cuttings praising “Lucile's mys- 
terious beauties" as they called my mannequins, for 
I, thinking that a little mystery would heighten their 
attraction, refused to divulge their names or to say 
where I had found them. 

When I arrived in the showroom the morning 
after the parade I found a group of reporters waiting 
to interview me. One of them was not a reporter but 
the sub-editor of the Royal Magazine and he told me 
his name was Rudolf Besier, He seemed very cock- 
sure, and rather aggressive, but I liked him. I took 
him round the workrooms and showed him the models. 
He laughed heartily at the names of some of my “gowns 
of emotion" and was very sceptical over them. “Just 
imagine this for a name,” he read out, “* The Sighing 
Sound of Lips Unsatisfied'. How in the world could 
a dress express that?" I insisted that it could, and 
told die mannequins to put on the different dresses 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 73 

whose names were printed on the programme of the 
previous day's parade. As they came out on to the 
stage I asked him to guess the name of each dress. 
Of course he could not. Then a girl walked slowly in 
wearing a dress of soft grey chiffon veiling an underdress 
of shot pink and violet taffeta. It looked rather like 
an opal, and gave the impression of something shadowed 
and unreal. “Now what does that suggest to you?" 
I asked him. He laughed. “I should say a young 
widow or perhaps an old maid, anyway, something 
unsatisfied." 

“That's exactly what I thought of when I called 
the model ‘The Sighing Sound of Lips Unsatisfied'," 
I told him. He had to admit there was something to 
be said for my idea of naming the dresses. He often 
came to the showrooms after that and even gave me 
suggestions for other names for dresses. “A Frenzied 
Song of Amorous Things" was one of them. I never 
thought he was quite serious about it, but the model 
sold splendidly and was one of my most successful. 
Another scarlet dress he christened “Red Mouth of 
a Venomous Flower" ; and to a dinner dress of blue, 
and crystal he gave the name “The Meaning of Life 
is Clear". 



CHAPTER SEVEN 


M Y wonderful mannequins lacked poise and self- 
confidence, and their beauty was undiscovered, 
and therefore to the casual eye practically non-existent. 
In the evening they took off their splendid clothes, 
and caught trams and buses to their homes. There 
they cooked the family supper, did their own washing 
and performed a hundred and one prosaic tasks. 

But in the atmosphere of the showroom, wearing 
beautiful clothes all day, and surrounded with beautiful 
things they took on new personalities. Inspired them- 
selves by the discovery of their own loveliness, and 
the sense of power it awakened in them, they became 
in turn my inspiration. 

The models we sent out from Hanover Square to 
clothe some of the most beautiful women in the world 
owed their origin as much to these girls, who a few 
months ago had never known what it was to wear a 
dress which had cost more than a guinea, as they did 
to me. 

It is impossible to over-estimate the effect of 
environment on a woman, for women are infinitely 
more adaptable than men, they become a part of their 
surroundings. I see every day in the streets and in 
tube stations girls who are fairy princesses in disguise, 
girls whom nobody takes much notice of as they travel 
bach from the City with tired faces, and lagging feet, 
yet I know that I could turn them into dazzling beauties 
with one wave of the magic wand I used to wield. “I 
love that beauty should go beautifully", and I am so 
sorry sometimes when I see a lovely girl without the 
background that is her birthright, that I long to give 

n 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 75 

it to her* There is not a woman living whose looks do 
not need care and attention, and even “the face that 
launched a thousand ships" would not have been seen 
to its best advantage under a cheap hat to-day. 

It was easy enough for me once I had chosen my 
mannequins to make them a part of their surroundings, 
for they were just as enthusiastic about the work as I 
was. Often I would shut myself up for hours with 
one of these glorious girls, and a few yards of material, 
which I had already visioned as the dress her type of 
beauty seemed to demand, and neither of us would 
speak a word except for a few curt directions until 
it was finished. Stopping only long enough for us 
both to drink a glass of milk, we would work the whole 
day, I pinning and unpinning the material, she turning 
and moving this way and that until I had got the effect 
I wanted. At the end of it all we would be tired out, 
but when, a few days later, she would wear the model 
in the parade, we would both feel more than repaid 
by the chorus of admiration which greeted her entrance. 

In these days a mannequin is so much an accepted 
fact at any fashionable dressmaker's that we are apt to 
take her for granted. The slender figure gliding in 
and out of the room in first one dress, then another, 
pausing to answer questions about the model she is 
in an expressionless voice, has become so familiar that 
her presence is scarcely noticed, except as a means for 
displaying the gown. But at the time when I first 
launched my “goddesses", they were the talk of London. 
Women came as much out of curiosity to see them as 
out of a wish to buy the clothes I was creating. Within 
the first six months of starting the parades I had doubled 
my clientele, and nearly trebled my turnover. You 
see, I knew the value of a picture to women, the subtle 
allure of atmosphere. 

Women who would gaze unmoved at my loveliest 
model when it was offered for their inspection in the cold. 



76 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

grey light of a winter morning would come back in the 
afternoon, when a parade was in progress, see it worn 
by Gamela or Hebe, and buy it immediately. All 
women make pictures for themselves, they go to the 
theatre and see themselves as the heroine of the play, 
they watch Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo acting 
for them at the cinema, but it is themselves they are 
watching really, and when the lights are lowered to 
a rosy glow, and soft music is played and the manne- 
quins parade, there is not a woman in the audience, 
though she may be fat and middle-aged, who is not 
seeing herself looking as those slim, beautiful girls 
look in the clothes they are offering her. And that is 
the inevitable prelude to buying the clothes. 

Very soon I had increased the number of my 
mannequins, and their fame had spread to such an 
extent that when it became known I was looking for 
more girls I had over two hundred applicants to choose 
from. 

I gave each one of my mannequins a name in 
harmony with her personality. There was lovely 
Gamela, “Black Beauty” in Arabic. I called her that. 
Her real name was Susie ; it was hopelessly incon- 
gruous for her six foot one of perfect symmetry. Her 
blue-black hair coiled round her ears in two plaits 
(Gamela was the originator of what was called “the 
telephone coil” hairdressing), her long, almond-shaped 
eyes and straight-cut, cameo-like features suggested 
a priestess of Isis, far back in Egypt. She was the 
ideal exponent of the exotic. Oriental evening gowns 
which I made so popular before the War, and she wore 
them as though she had been born to the inheritance 
of riches and power. As she walked down the room, 
her proud little head held erect, her strange, mys- 
terious eyes half closed, she made most of the women 
who watched her look ins ignifi cant. 

Then there was Dolores, another “goddess”, a 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 77 

statuesque six foot beauty, with a Grecian profile and 
such lovely limbs that Florenz Ziegfeld, that world's 
judge of women, came by chance to one of my parades 
in New York, begged me on the spot to release her, 
and took her for his Follies* For a while she had a 
triumphant career as “the most beautiful girl in the 
States”, her face was embossed on the American war 
coins, then she married Mr. Tudor Wilkinson, million- 
aire and art-collector, who took her to live in his 
wonderful appartement in Paris on the Quai d' Orleans. 

“Phyllis” was a chubby, baby-faced type, with a 
rosebud mouth. She looked so feminine and helpless 
that any man who saw her felt he simply had to pro- 
tect her from the cruel world. Mr. Jesse Franks, who 
was called “The Wall Street Wizard”, felt it so ardently 
when he met her on the boat going out with me to 
New York that he persuaded her to marry him, and 
I lost one of my best mannequins. Now Phyllis is 
one of the richest women in London. 

“Florence”, who had a skin like a flower and 
beautiful hands and tiny feet, married into one of the 
oldest families in Scotland, and was presented at Court. 

“Hebe”, loveliest of them all, became a legend in 
Paris and had so many suitors that she could have 
married a dozen times over. Hebe was dark and 
voluptuous, and very demure and sphinx-like, with 
her quiet, downcast eyes and oval face. Her father 
was a teacher of French at Greenwich, and she had 
intended to follow in his footsteps. Then someone 
told her that I wanted a mannequin who could speak 
French to take over to Paris with me, and she came to 
the showrooms to apply for the post. She got it and 
went with me not only to Paris, where her beauty 
caused a sensation, but to America. Then she married 
Mr. Arthur Kingsland, the multi-millionaire, and went 
to live in his chateau outside Pau. 

These were the girls, who might, in the ordinary 



78 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

course of events, have had lives of obscurity. Swept 
along on the tide of triumph created by those first 
mannequin parades of mine they became world-famous. 
In London, in Paris, in New York and in Chicago 
they had some of the richest men of the day at their 
feet. They stood for beauty incarnate, suitors clam- 
oured for their favours. When they walked in the 
Avenue des Champs-Elysees or lunched at Voison’s, 
they were surrounded by a crowd of admirers, who 
hovered at a respectable distance. There was nothing 
that they might not have asked from men, so great was 
the power of the legend they had become. 

"Be sure of what you want/' I used to tell them. 
"If you want to marry be as good as gold. If you 
don’t, be expensive.” 

I used to tell them I liked travelling with them, for 
their beauty was an "Open Sesame” to all doors. The 
susceptible Frenchmen at the Douane never even 
examined our luggage, they looked at Hebe’s face 
instead and passed us through, and in the restaurants 
waiters used to hover obsequiously round our table. 
I think they would have chosen one of the rare smiles 
that Dolores used to dispense rather than the most 
generous tip. They used to bring the best of every- 
thing that was on the menu for us. 

Incidentally the slimming craze had not been 
brought in at that time, and it amuses me to think of 
how different the figures of my goddesses were from 
the accepted standard of beauty to-day. Not one of 
them weighed much under eleven stone, and several 
of them were considerably more. They were "big 
girls” with "fine figures”, a compliment then, though 
it has become the reverse now. The post-war ideal 
of the "boyish” figure was then unheard of, and a 
woman was admired for looking like a woman, a thing 
cl generous curves and a full bust. 

Only the other day I came across one of the 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 79 

programmes of a mannequin parade I gave twenty- 
seven years ago. It was called “A Private Exhibition 
of Studies in Costume, Examples of the Possibilities 
of Dress.” Attached to the programme is a slip, 
“H.R.H. The Duchess of Connaught has graciously 
extended her patronage to the private view and has 
authorized us to state that the trousseau of H.R.H. 
The Princess Margaret of Connaught is being supplied 
by the Maison Lucile.” 

I remember that parade because it was divided 
into a cycle — -“The Seven Ages of Woman.” It began 
with models for “The Schoolgirl”, went on to “The 
Debutante”, “The Fiancee”, “The Bride”, “The Wife” 
(in this group were nine of my emotional gowns, one 
of which was called “Ask Nothing More”, another 
title chosen by Rudolf Besier). Then came “The 
Hostess”, and finally “The Dowager”. 

In addition to the dresses themselves I used to 
show hats, shoes and gloves to harmonize with them, 
and even jewels. In fact everything to give the wearer 
the personality I had pictured when I designed the 
model. 

As I had been the first dressmaker to introduce the 
mannequin, so I was the first to show women how they 
ought to wear their dresses. I taught them to let their 
clothes express their own personality. I would never 
design a dress for any woman until I had studied her 
type, and more often than not I had to find for her an 
entirely different way of dressing and of doing her hair. 

So I began to be noted for “making personalities”, 
and the new rich used to come secretly to me to be 
coached, not only in the art of dressing, but in the art 
of wearing beautiful clothes, which was far more 
important for them to acquire. So great was their 
faith in me that they used to pay twenty guineas for a 
consultation, otherwise I should not have had the time 
to devote to them, for every minute of my day was 



8o 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


booked up weeks ahead. In America years later I 
used to be paid five and six times that sum by the 
wives of self-made men who had acquired money, 
and who felt incapable of taking any place in society 
until they had been drilled. 

With all these women I knew that there was only 
one thing to do, and that was to find them one special 
“genre”, which they could keep to in their dress and 
everything with which they surrounded themselves. 
They used to put themselves in my hands absolutely 
and carry out my instructions, and I seldom had a 
failure. 

Those were the days when every woman wanted 
to look individual and unlike everyone else. Dressing 
since the War has been almost communal in its ten- 
dencies. For many years we wore our skirts at exactly 
the same length regardless of the shape of our legs, 
drew our litde hats over our faces at preciselythe same 
angle, and adorned ourselves, whether we were fat or 
slim, with the same jumper. So we all looked alike. 

Now the pendulum is gradually beginning to swing 
back and we are striving to bring more personality into 
our clothes. But I do not think that dressing will ever 
again play the part in social life that it played twenty 
or thirty years ago. It is regarded as of infinitely less 
importance nowadays. The cult of beauty has increased 
and the present generation of girls are far more soignee 
and far better groomed than their mothers were, but 
they think less of clothes than their predecessors did. 
Very few women would bother now to change their 
dresses five or six times a day, yet every Edwardian, 
with any claims to being well-dressed, did so as a 
matter of course. 

Nobody minds now being seen in the same dress 
time after time, yet twenty years ago to have worn the 
same dress at three functions in a season caused 
comment. Lack of time and lack of money has revo- 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 8l 

lutionized modern dress, for both were essential to the 
old standard. 

No woman could possibly keep up the type of 
dressing which prevailed at the beginning of this 
century unless she had a maid, or even two maids, as 
most of my clients in the old days had. The people 
who can afford a large staff are in the minority now and 
so many women are working for at least part of the 
day, and have not time to take off their clothes — hence 
the era of “practical dressing”, of ready-made clothes, 
semi-sports wear even for Town, and little hats which 
can go under umbrellas. It is all very sensible, of course, 
yet those of us who can remember those spacious, 
leisurely days, and the “picture dresses” that repre- 
sented them, cannot help regretting the change, 
inevitable as it is. 

The women who used to come to my showrooms, 
spend a whole day choosing clothes, and order filmy 
nightdresses at ten and twelve guineas each by the 
dozen, the women who would never cover an evening 
dress with anything less than sable or ermine, and who 
would have been horrified at the mere suggestion of 
imitation lace, are all part of a London which is dis- 
appearing. It is many years since I have seen a woman 
look really “elegant”, the old-fashioned adjective has 
fallen into disuse. It is as out of place as the clothes 
it described would be to-day. 

I can remember some of those women who made 

an art of beautiful dressing. The late Countess of 

Dudley was one of them. I can see her now, walking 

slowly and with that very graceful gait of hers into my 

showroom, her dress of mauve chiffon falling in a 

cloud of draperies to her little feet, her big hat, with 

its sweeping feathers, setting off her classical profile. 

In one hand she usually carried a single, long-stemmed 

rose, an affectation perhaps, but it suited her. Her 

jewels were wonderful. Those were the days when 
’ v 



83 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

women wore a great deal of jewellery, and what would 
now be called ostentatious was then thought only 
fitting to the wearer's social position. 

The first thing a man did when he got engaged was 
to go through the family jewel case to find something 
worthy of his bride, and if he were unable to do this 
he was expected to go straight to Cartier’s and buy not 
only the engagement ring, but an assortment of brooches, 
bracelets and necklaces. 

Young men were expected to be very attentive to 
their fiancees in those days, and I think the engaged 
girl got much more fun out of her engagement than 
her successor of to-day does. 

I used to see so many romances from their begin- 
ning, for my showroom was a favourite meeting-place 
for lovers, particularly if the parents did not approve. 
It was so entirely blameless an excuse for the girl to 
say that she was going to her dressmaker that nobody 
even wondered at her frequent visits there. I could 
pick out at least half a dozen of the most happily 
married couples in society whose engagements began 
in a clandestine way, but who were able, sometimes 
with my help, to overcome parental prejudice. I had 
been in their confidence from the start, for women 
confide in their dressmakers. There are more secrets 
told in fitting-rooms and in hairdressers’ cubicles than 
anywhere in the world, for all women have to confide 
in somebody, and it has to be somebody impersonal. 
They will only give carefully chosen confidences to 
their dearest friends. Their dressmaker or manicurist 
is told the unvarnished truth* 

Women have made the most surprising confessions 
to me. They have told me the most intimate details 
of their lives, who their lovers were, and the causes 
of their quarrels with their husbands. One of the 
strangest stories of all was told me by a lady. Both 
she and her husband passionately desired an heir to 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 83 

the estates, but it was found impossible for him to 
have, and there was apparently no alternative to the 
prospect of the succession passing to a very distant 
relative. Eventually her husband came to her and 
implored her to be unfaithful to him, only stipulating 
that she should not take as her lover any man of his 
acquaintance. So this woman, brought up in the 
traditional purity of a great family which had prided 
itself on its observance of the virtues, felt herself 
constrained to make what she considered an appalling 
sacrifice for the honour of the house she had married 
into. After weeks of deliberation she screwed up her 
courage to the point of going out on to Piccadilly one 
night, determined to spend the night with a man 
whose only qualifications were to be that he looked 
young and healthy. She cried bitterly as she described 
the adventure to me. 

“I did not know what to say/’ she explained to me. 
"But I just smiled when a man said, ‘Hullo,' and let 
him do the talking. But when he asked me where to 
go, I didn't know what he meant, and I had to admit 
that I did not know of any place. After that he would 
not go with me. He seemed to be afraid." 

So she had gone home too distressed to continue 
the adventure. She had no better fortune on the 
second night, but on the third, she told me, she had 
found "a nice, young boy", on a holiday in London. 
They went away for a week-end — Her son is the 
present owner of the estates. 

The sequel to the story is the most surprising part 
of it,, for the husband she had honestly wanted to please 
never forgave her for carrying out his wishes so liter- 
ally, Although there was no open estrangement between 
them, a quarrel began, which lasted until his death. 
It was a terrible grief to her, for she had only done 
what she had believed to be an entirely disagreeable 
duty rather than let the great estates, of which her 



84 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

husband was so proud, pass into the keeping of a 
stranger, 

"The boy” used to write to her at a Poste Restante 
in another name. He, of course, knew nothing of her 
beyond the fact that she was a pretty little woman 
whom he had found on Piccadilly. He was very dis- 
appointed when she refused to see him on his next 
visit to London. 

Most of the confidences which were related to me 
came from women who wanted their accounts faked 
because of their husbands. The wives of notoriously 
mean men would often ask that only half the price of 
the dresses should be put down on their accounts and 
sent in to their husbands. The other half they used 
to raise from the household expenses, or in some other 
way. 

Then there were the women who asked just the 
opposite, and insisted on another twenty or thirty per 
cent being added to all the items on their bills. They 
were married to men who, although they would pay 
out large sums to have their wives well dressed, were 
niggardly in the matter of pin money, and so the wives 
had to resort to the subterfuge of having extra money 
paid out on their bills, which was handed over to them 
so that they might have a little ready money. This 
was a very common state of things, and I used to be 
surprised at the numbers of rich men whose wives, 
although they might make other women envious 
because of their sable coats and beautiful jewels, had 
literally hot five shillings in their jewelled bags. 

Then came the confidences of the women whose 
bills were mysteriously paid by "somebody” — "an old 
friend”. We used to be asked "to send in my account to 
Lord . . . and please do not mention it to my husband.” 

, / Sometimes this was the prelude to a divorce. I 
particularly remember cme case. The woman was 
young and very charming, married to a rich husband. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 85 

Her dress bills extended over a period of something 
like three years, for those were the days of long credit, 
but as she would constantly pay a small sum on 
account all went smoothly, until it was announced 
that her husband would not be responsible for her bills. 
At that time she owed “Lucile Ltd.” over £2,000, and 
we were obliged to threaten the husband with legal 
proceedings. Eventually, after my solicitor had con- 
sulted with the husband's solicitors, it was agreed that 
the wife's bill would be paid after details had been 
furnished. 

I had, of course, nothing whatever to do with any- 
thing but the designing of the models, but the counting- 
house staff were given instructions to go over the 
account, deduct payments already made and send the 
whole particulars to the husband. 

It was not until months afterwards that my solicitor 
told me that the bill had been the cause of one of the 
most talked-of divorces of that time. The husband 
had gone into his wife's account thoroughly and had 
seen that various payments had been made. He had 
insisted on particulars being supplied him from the 
accountants, and had discovered that one of his best 
friends had been in the habit of paying for his wife's 
clothes. Without letting her know of his discovery he 
had her watched, and the result was that some months 
later he was able to divorce her. I was sorry for her 
for she had been very unhappy with him, and I was 
glad to hear some time afterwards that she had married 
the co-respondent, who had been in love with her for 
years. 

Some of the most amusing confidences came from 
actresses and “professional beauties'', who would bring 
their men friends to “look at'' clothes. The “looking” 
always ended in a present of a dress or hat or a fur coat, 
according to the degree of infatuation on the part of 
the man. 



86 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

I remember one very famous actress who brought 
a Maharajah shopping with her, and asked the sales- 
woman to show them furs. She selected a sable coat 
costing nearly three thousand pounds, but said she 
could not afford it. The Maharajah gallantly came to 
the rescue, and although she demurred for about five 
minutes, in the end the coat was bought and the sales- 
woman was asked to send it round to the Maharajah's 
hotel, where it would be paid for. 

It was sent the next morning, but the messenger 
came back with it. The Eastern potentate had quarrelled 
with his love and withdrawn the present. 

Later in the day the Maharajah came in again with 
another lady. He ordered the same coat should be 
shown to her, and as she was delighted with it paid for 
it on the spot, and she left the shop wearing it. 

In less than five minutes after that the actress 
arrived and asked to see the coat again. The sales- 
woman, who was very embarrassed at this contretemps, 
was obliged to say that there had been some mistake 
and the coat had been sold to another client. The 
actress, evidently guessing what had happened, pos- 
sibly because she had seen her former admirer leaving 
the house with another woman, stormed with rage and 
rushed out saying that she meant to get the coat back 
at all costs. 

The Maharajah was leaving for Paris that night, 
and was actually on the platform at Victoria Station 
when she found him. They had a terrific quarrel, for 
the other woman had come to see him off wearing the 
coat. 

Eventually the actress won, and she and the Maha- 
rajah, who had by this time missed his train, had an 
equally violent reconciliation, and drove off together. 
. A week or two later she came back to the showroom 
with, him to choose a dress to go under the coat l 



CHAPTER EIGHT 


I USED to love the dresses I created, very much as 
a mother loves her child, or an artist his pictures. 
For me there was a positive intoxication in taking yards 
of shimmering silks, laces airy as gossamer and lengths 
of ribbons, delicate and rainbow-coloured, and fashion- 
ing of them garments so lovely that they might have 
been worn by some princess in a fairy-tale. I have 
known much happiness in my life and much sorrow, 
for that matter, as every human being does who is 
resolved to live each moment to its fullest extent as 
it comes, taking the bitter with the sweet and not 
shirking any emotion. This has always seemed to me 
the only way to live, and if I have a philosophy in life 
this sums it up. 

But I have never found in any person or any thing 
that lasting satisfaction that my work has given me. 
I have found happiness in friendships, in travel and in 
many other things, but none of them has remained 
with me as my work has done. Just as when I was a 
child I used to dress up my dolls to console myself 
when my grandmother had been especially difficult, 
so in later years I used to create a dream world for 
myself by making dresses that expressed my own 
moods. 

I remember some of these “emotional dresses” 
now. One of them called “Consolable Sorrow” I 
designed just after a young man whom I liked had 
left for America, It was in deepest black, and became 
the most popular model for a widow that I ever showed* 
Every woman in London who lost her husband went 
into “Consolable Sorrow”, and I must say they looked 



88 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


sweetly pathetic. Then there were gay little dresses 
emanating from happy love affairs that breathed 
romance and joie de vivre . One of them was actually 
the cause of one of the most talked-of engagements 
of the day. It happened like this. 

I had designed the dresses for The Catch of the 
Season, which, with Seymour Hicks and Zena Dare 
in the cast, was to take London by storm, and inci- 
dentally bring me in so many orders for dresses like 
those worn in the play that we could scarcely cope 
with them. A few days before the opening night we 
decided to hold a parade of the costumes at Hanover 
Square, and invitations were sent out. I have one of 
those invitations to this day, and it amuses me to read 
on the back of it, “Lucile believes that gowns may 
express ideas from grave to gay, even emotions and 
passions. So she has gone to the silent worlds 
of desires and temperaments and sensations and 
translates their secrets into wondrous colours and 
entrancing forms/' I think that the publicity agent 
for the Vaudeville Theatre must have been worth his 
money I 

Among the people who came to see this dress parade 
was the Countess of Somers, the mother of Adeline 
Duchess of Bedford, and one of the most charming 
and fascinating old ladies I have ever known. There 
was something so kindly and gracious in her person- 
ality that everyone who came in contact with her 
loved her. To her relations she was a veritable fairy 
godmother, and she loved young people, and had a 
genius for understanding them. 

After the dress parade she told me that she had a 
great-niece coming out — little Verena Somers- Cox. 
She was going to stay with the Earl and Countess of 
Dudley, and would make her first appearance at Dublin, 
where. Lord Dudley was then Viceroy. Would I 
make her some really beautiful dresses, as it was so 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 89 

important that she should make a good impression? 
I said that I must see her before I could give any 
opinion, and the next day Lady Somers brought 
her in, 

I never designed a dress for any woman in those 
days until I had succeeded, as I believed, in placing 
her type, for dresses, if they are to give any pleasure 
to their wearer, must become a part of her personality. 
It is obvious, for instance, that it is no use to create 
exotic gowns for the sports-loving type of woman, 
or to dress the ingenue in garments designed for the 
vamp, for to do so is to graft on to her something 
which does not harmonize with her own personality, 
and she will never feel her best thus. As a general 
rule when I had a new client I used to lunch or dine 
with her, or even stay in her house for a few days 
while I made my observations carefully and noted her 
good and bad points, what to accentuate and what to 
conceal, and by the end of the visit I had decided just 
what clothes would suit her. 

With this young girl, however, I had not much 
time, for she was leaving for Ireland in a few weeks, 
so I had to find something for her at once. I looked 
at her carefully as she walked in shyly, in the wake of 
Lady Somers, and saw that she was not then a beauty, 
although she might develop into one later. At the 
same time she had the incomparable charms of youth 
and innocence, and it was for me to make the most of 
them. Suddenly I thought of the demure little dress 
I had designed for Zena Dare to wear as the ingenue 
in The Catch of the Season . It was the sweetest thing 
in pale grey, with a neat little muslin collar and wide 
blue sash, just exactly what I wanted for this shy young 
girl of sixteen, with her rose-leaf skin and childish 
contours. Lady Somers was delighted with the idea, 
but she found the price more than she had wished to 
pay. 



90 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

“Never mind, she will get a rich husband in it/' 
I said: we both laughed. 

Yet that was just what happened. 

Little Verena wore the dress the morning after her 
arrival and came down to breakfast in it. Seated at 
the table was Lord Hyde, the most eligible bachelor 
in London, rich, good-looking, and heir to his father, 
the Earl of Clarendon. For years he had been the 
quarry of every matchmaking mother in Society, but 
although there had been rumours of first one engage- 
ment and then another, he had remained heart-whole. 
That is until he looked up on that summer morning 
and saw a little vision in palest grey standing wide- 
eyed and shy just inside the door, for from that moment 
his fate was sealed. It was a case of love at first sight, 
and although she was still almost a child, and he many 
years her senior, he proposed to her within a week of 
their meeting. The Catch of the Season dress had 
brought in the “catch of the season" in husbands I 

I made the trousseau for their wedding and con- 
tinued to design her dresses for years afterwards when 
she became Countess of Clarendon, but she always 
told me that no dress had ever given her quite so much 
pleasure as the grey silk I made for her to take to 
Ireland. 

Somehow or other the story got round after that 
that I was “lucky” to debutantes, and there was 
scarcely a fashionable mother in Town who did not 
bring her daughter to me to be dressed for her first 
season, and, of course, as many of them were lovely 
girls not a few engagements resulted. Before long I 
was running a special department for debutantes' 
dresses, and our house was the first in London or even 
in Paris to do so, for as a general rule the fashions were 
created for older women, and were only adapted for 
die feme fille , often very unsuitably at that. 

One great difference I notice in these days is that 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 91 

there are fewer first season engagements, perhaps 
because the modem girl has learnt to appreciate the 
freedom she has in this century and is in no hurry to 
exchange it for marriage* Before the War a debutante 
was expected to annex an eligible young man, if not 
in her first, at least in her second season. Her mother 
entertained lavishly for her, whether the family bank 
balance justified it or not, gave balls for her, whose 
cost ran into hundreds of pounds, and spent a small 
fortune on her clothes. In her third season, if she still 
remained unattached, alarm took the place of maternal 
pride and efforts were redoubled. 

If even these were unsuccessful she was generally 
sent out to India or Egypt to some relative or other, 
where she often saved the stigma on her family at the 
eleventh hour by marrying some young officer with 
not too brilliant prospects. If she failed even to do 
this she came home again, but in what altered status. 
Instead of being the adored debutante daughter she 
was tacitly consigned to old maidism, while younger 
sisters, who had just come out, took the centre of the 
stage. No more balls for her, she was generally looked 
on as the family Cinderella, and her dress allowance 
was generally cut down to a minimum, now that pretty 
clothes were no longer regarded as necessary weapons 
in her social armoury. 

I have been witness to some distressing scenes 
when mothers have actually reproached their daughters 
in my presence with not justifying all that had been 
done for them, and the money that had been laid out 
in the hope of a rich return I But all that has changed 
immeasurably, and some of the happiest marriages 
are made now by girls who have been “out” for several 
years. 

The modern girl has, I think, learnt to look life in 
the face. She is not afraid of being left unmarried, 
because marriage is no longer vitally necessary to her 



93 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

happiness. So many things are possible to her that 
were denied to her mother’s generation of girls, and 
she has learnt how to make the most of them. Perhaps 
she has not the restraint that we, her elders, think she 
ought to have, but then very few young people have 
restraint — it is one of the things that the years teach 
us. 

Fundamentally I believe that the cocktail-drinking, 
cigarette-smoking girls of to-day are no better and no 
worse than the demure little creatures who used to 
accompany their mothers to my salons in Hanover 
Square to choose their presentation dresses. The 
confidences which my grand-daughter, Flavia Giffard, 
and her friends tell me have not changed much from 
those which were poured into my sympathetic ears 
twenty or thirty years ago by their predecessors. But 
I do think that on the whole the young girl of to-day 
has an infinitely better time in many ways. I can 
recall countless instances of girls who were literally 
forced into marriages with men whom they actually 
disliked because they had been chosen as suitable 
husbands for them by their families* Often the parents 
must have known that such a marriage could have no 
possible chance of happiness, but it made no difference. 
Provided that the prospective bridegroom was eligible 
as regards income and social position the rest was left 
to take care of itself. He might be thirty or forty years 
older than the bride, and have lived a notoriously fast 
life, he might be a semi-cripple or tainted with here- 
ditary insanity, but any of these drawbacks were over- 
looked as if they did not exist. 

I shall never forget one wedding for which I designed 
the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses. It was one of 
the smartest weddings of the year, and the newspapers 
were full of the beauty of the bride, who was scarcely 
out of her teens, and the wealth of the bridegroom. 
It was described as such marriages usually are as a 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 93 

"case of true love”, and "a perfect romance”* Only 
those who knew the whole story and were aware that 
the bride's parents were deeply in debt to their future 
son-in-law knew that there was neither love nor romance 
in it. I was struck, when I designed the dresses, by 
the listlessness of the girl and by her utter lack of 
interest in the whole proceedings, and I was not sur- 
prised when one of the fitters, who had been listening 
to the gossip of her maid, told me that she was 
desperately in love with a young Guardsman, who had 
been forbidden the house by her father. I was terribly 
sorry for her, but of course I could do nothing, and 
the wedding order went through as usual. 

I went to the reception afterwards and I thought 
that the bride looked more like an ivory statuette in 
the clinging dress of white satin I had created for her 
than a living woman, as she stood by her middle-aged 
bridegroom. When she went upstairs to change into 
her going-away dress I followed with her mother, and 
we began to help her to take off her wreath and veil. 
Suddenly she turned on her mother and all the misery 
and bitterness which must have been stored up in 
her heart for weeks was poured out in a flood of 
reproaches. She tore the wedding veil, a priceless 
piece of old family lace, in two with her trembling hands 
and threw it on the floor, as she accused her mother 
of ruining her whole life for her own ambition. 

"You have married me to a man I loathe and I 
shall loathe him to my dying day,” she said. "Every 
hour that I spend with him will be an hour of 
misery.” 

With a voice almost choked with sobs she solemnly 
cursed her mother, who stood helplessly by crying, 
apparently realizing for the first time the wrong she 
had done her daughter. Downstairs the bridegroom 
was ready waiting to start for the Continental train 
they were to catch, and the bridesmaids hovered 



94 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

wretchedly at the door. The mother was too overcome 
to do anything and finally I and the governess, the 
latter with tears pouring down her face, for she had 
been with the family for years and shared its troubles, 
persuaded the poor little bride to put on her going- 
away dress and go downstairs. I shall always remem- 
ber her set face as she went and the cold, trembling 
little hand which was put into mine when she said 
“Good-bye”. She has been married for years now and 
takes an active part in all the different charity affairs, 
but remembering those terrible things she poured out 
on her wedding-day I have often wondered whether 
she is happy. 

If the Catch of the Season was the favourite of the 
ingenue dresses I created, I must find its parallel in 
popularity among the more sophisticated models. 
Looking back I cannot recall any dress which made 
such a sensation as “The Birth of Venus”, an evening 
dress in a glorious pink and silver brocade. The 
inspiration for this dress came to me just before the 
War, and I remember that I shut myself up for the 
whole of one day while I thought it out. The man- 
nequin on whom I created it was one of the most 
beautiful creatures I have ever seen. She was quite 
as interested in it as I was and stood for hours without 
the least sign of fatigue while I draped the wonderful 
material on her until I had got it to my complete 
satisfaction* 

When it was done I looked at her standing tall and 
lovely (she was just under six foot and had quantities 
of golden hair coiled round her head), and the name 
of the dress came to me like a flash, “The Birth of 
Venus” . ♦ * reincarnation of a deity. It was made 
for two women only, both worthy of its beauty. One 
was the* Queen of Spain, the other Mrs. Dudley Ward. 
'Die latter was the first to buy it. She came to me one 
day, excited and happy. She had been invited to dine 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 95 

for the first time with the Prince of Wales and wanted 
a dress worthy of the occasion. 

“You must make me the most beautiful dress in 
London/' 

I thought of the “Birth of Venus", and had it shown 
to her, and without waiting to see any others she 
decided to have it made for her. The girls worked day 
and night to have it ready in time for her, but it was 
well worth the time and trouble spent on it. When 
I went into the showroom to see the final fitting I 
thought that I had never seen a more perfect alliance 
of beauty than this glorious dress, displayed by a 
woman whose every movement was a joy to watch. 
I have always thought Mrs. Dudley Ward one of the 
most graceful and the most distinguished-looking 
woman I have ever seen, and it was a real pleasure to 
dress her for she always did justice to my models. 

She wore this particular dress with more success 
than any other I ever made her, and the Prince of Wales 
was charmed with it and told her he had never seen 
anything so beautiful. 

A few days later the Queen of Spain came into the 
salon. She always bought her dresses from me when- 
ever she came to London and used to go back with 
a trunk full of lovely clothes. “Far too nice to be 
wasted on Madrid, where they think that a black 
mantilla is enough for any woman,” as she once said 
to me. 

Of all my Royal clients I liked her the most, for 
she was so delightfully human and simple, and so 
truly feminine in the way she enjoyed choosing her 
clothes, sometimes spending a whole afternoon in the 
showroom, insisting on being served just like anyone 
else, laughing and talking with the mannequins and 
saleswomen and trying on the dresses in the little 
fitting-rooms until she found one that suited her. She 
has the most perfect taste in clothes and invariably 



96 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

knew what was the best type of model for her and 
insisted on having it. Of all the women I know I can 
think of none who possesses the “clothes sense” to a 
greater degree than the Queen of Spain. Had she 
been born in another position she would have made 
a fortune as a grande couturier e, I believe, for she under- 
stands the art of dressing not only for herself but for 
other people. 

As an instance of this a saleswoman once told me 
that on one occasion the Queen of Spain had come to 
Hanover Square when I was out and had been shown 
a number of models. Sitting opposite to her in the 
salon was an enormously stout woman of the new-rich 
type, who was trying to select an evening dress for 
herself. Of course when the mannequins had paraded 
before her she picked out the most unsuitable model 
for her figure of all of them. (I have noticed that 
very stout women seem to have a positive genius for 
choosing the wrong dress.) The saleswoman attempted 
gently to turn her attention to something she would 
look better in without much success, and in the end 
the poor soul got hopelessly confused. The Queen of 
Spain, who had been watching the little byplay, turned 
to the saleswoman. 

“Look, this is the sort of line she ought to choose,” 
she whispered and quickly made a rough sketch of 
it on the back of an envelope she took out of her bag. 
It was exacdy right, I could not have created a better 
model myself; and the saleswoman, seeing its possi- 
bilities, persuaded the stout lady to have one made 
after the rough sketch. She did so and was delighted 
with it. Had she known that it had been designed for 
her by the. Queen of Spain I feel sure she would have 
valued it far more. 

The Queen did a great deal to bring the fashions 
of the Spanish Court into line with those of London 
and Pads, but she was up against old prejudices and 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 97 

was continually hampered by the rigid traditions 
which opposed any really smart fashions. 

‘*1 love this model, but I simply dare not buy it,** 
she would often say. “You cannot imagine what a 
scandal it would cause if I appeared in it at the palace/* 
So it would have to be modified in some way or other, 
to our mutual regret. One thing the Queen absolutely 
refused to do was to wear the voluminous petticoats 
considered necessary to conform with Spanish etiquette, 
so most of her skirts, although they would have been 
perfectly suitable even at Buckingham Palace (my 
most jealous rivals never brought against me the charge 
that my models were anything but good style), had 
to be made of thicker material than the original 
model. 

King Alphonso often accompanied the Queen to a 
fitting and took nearly as much interest in it as she 
did ; like many husbands he was very fond of help 
ing his wife to choose her new dresses, and she evidently 
valued his judgment, for she always decided on the 
model he picked out for her from the collection. Once 
I remember I had words with him on the subject of 
a dress — that is if anyone could be said to “have words** 
with King Alphonso, who is the soul of good-nature 
and kindliness. It was over the battle of the Queen*s 
skirts. She had chosen a model, which had a slit at 
one side so that as the wearer walked the drapery 
opened to give just the most fleeting glimpse of the 
legs. The Queen loved it and said so at once, and I, 
knowing how well it would suit her, began arranging 
the details immediately. Then King Alphonso put 
his foot down. 

“I am sorry, my dear,** he said, “but you cannot 
possibly wear that skirt. Not in Spain.** 

The Qtieen was dreadfully disappointed, and I 
began to argue with him. Not for anything in the 
world would I alter and spoil this model, I said. 

G 



98 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

"Then I am afraid the Queen cannot have it/' he 
replied. "You would not like to make trouble for me, 
I am sure. Lady Duff Gordon," he added. "Probably 
my attitude over so apparently trivial a thing seems to 
you most unreasonable, but I can assure you that 
to cause offence as the Queen would do inevitably 
in wearing that dress might have far from trivial 
results." 

Of course I gave in, and finally we arrived at a happy 
compromise. The dress opened like the original model, 
but only to show a lovely cascade of lace underskirt. 
It really was very pretty and the Queen wrote saying 
that it had been much admired in Spain. One thing 
that I always found very charming about that royal 
couple was their great affection for each other. They 
seemed ideally suited in temperament, and after many 
years of marriage King Alphonso was still in love with 
his wife. He would often slip his arm through hers 
in the showroom, and one of the saleswomen told me 
that on one occasion, when the Queen was trying on a 
dress, King Alphonso impulsively kissed her. 

"You looked so sweet in it, I could not help it," 
was his answer, when the Queen reproached him for 
taking all the powder off her nose ! 

"I never thought kings were as romantic as that," 
was the saleswoman's comment to me afterwards, 
"The Queen of Spain is lucky." 

As events have turned out I suppose she has been 
the reverse of "lucky" in one sense, for she has lost 
her throne, and for all their simplicity and dislike of 
formalities in their everyday life both^he and King 
Alphonso were Royal in every thought and deed. 
But, as women count these things, I think that she has 
been lucky at least in love, which is perhaps the most 
important thing of all, and I am sure that in their male 
she and her husband are getting the most out of life, 
helped by their affection and understanding of one 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 99 

another, and by the sense of humour they have both 
been endowed with. 

I had always pictured Mrs. Pankhurst as a big, 
strong, aggressive, dictatorial woman. My meeting 
with her took place before the War at the height of 
her fame as a fighting Suffragette. 

Lady Cowdry of Dun Edit Castle had summoned 
all her friends and neighbours for miles around to 
come and hear Mrs. Pankhurst, who was her guest 
at that time, speak on the subject of “Suffragettes”. 
I had always thought of the movement as a huge 
joke and was delighted to have an opportunity of hear- 
ing the most powerful and militant of its supporters 
explaining her views to the “unbelievers”. 

I arrived a little late and found everybody 
assembled in the immense dining-room, scrambling 
for food of the “high tea” sort, most of them having 
come a good way to hear Mrs. Pankhurst. I did not 
want any tea and the huge hall adjoining the dining- 
room looked far more inviting with its bright log 
fire, soft and comfortable sofas and deep armchairs, 
so I slipped out there to await the end of tea, when 
Mrs. Pankhurst was to make her address. 

I was quite alone in the hall when from some- 
where, I never knew where, a dear little woman 
appeared, very simply dressed, and sat down beside 
me. She asked me if I were interested in the 
Suffragette movement. I told her I was certainly 
interested but did not approve of it. I thought it 
was a lot of nonsense and rather undignified. In feet, 
I was far from encouraging. My unknown companion 
asked me if I had considered what it meant to women 
and to England and began talking quietly but decisively 
in her gentle voice until I was almost convinced of the 
right and glory of women's suffrage. 

I told her I had come a long way to hear Mrs. 
Pankhurst, whom I imagined to be a powerful. 



XOO DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

masculine type of woman. I am afraid I grew almost 
abusive as I enlarged on my mental picture of her. 

The gentle little woman beside me smiled and 
said : “I am Mrs. Pankhurst V' 

After this embarrassing introduction we became 
quite friendly, and I later met and made friends with 
Sylvia and Christabel— but they never made me a 
Suffragette ! 



CHAPTER NINE 


I SUPPOSE every woman remembers some years 
in her life which stood out more vividly than any 
others, generally because they were especially happy 
ones* The summer of 1907 is a time I like to look 
back on. That season was a very brilliant one, perhaps 
the most brilliant of the series which brought the 
social life of pre-War London to its peak. And just 
when it was at its zenith a new play was launched 
with a new actress, who set the whole Town raving 
over her beauty, and a waltz song which set the whole 
world dancing to its fascinating lilt. 

The triumph of The Merry Widow was also a 
personal triumph for me, for of all the plays I dressed, 
and they were many, it was my favourite. “The 
Merry Widow” hat, which I designed for Lily Elsie, 
brought in a fashion which carried the name of “Lucile”, 
its creator, all over Europe and the States. Every 
woman, who wanted to be in the swim, had to have a 
“Merry Widow” hat, and we made thousands of pounds 
through the craze, which lasted longer than most 
fashion crazes, for the charm of the play kept it alive, 
I shall never forget the day when George Edwardes 
brought in Lily Elsie to see me for the first time. But 
she was a very different Lily Elsie from the glorious 
creature whose beauty was to be the talk of every club 
in London. The girl who came in with George 
Edwardes was trembling with nervousness as she 
moved across the room. I had to look again to dis- 
cover that her hair was a wonderful shade of gold, and 
that her skin, which was innocent of make-up, was 
of the real lilies and roses type. 

zoz 



103 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

George Edwardes drew me aside, and explained 
that this was the new girl whom he was putting into 
the principal part in The Merry Widow, and that he 
wanted me to design the dresses for the production, 
and particularly for her, 

"She has never done anything to speak of," he 
said, "but I know she is clever, and I believe she has 
a great future in front of her, I have the idea that she 
can play the part of Sonia and astonish them all. Now 
this is where you can help me enormously. You must 
give her a personality, and coach her so that she can 
keep it up." 

I promised to do my best, and I started right away 
by asking her to take off her dress and hat and making 
her stand in front of me in her satin slip, while I made 
a mental picture of her. I discovered first that she 
had beautiful lines, then that her head was perfectly 
poised, and thirdly that she had the gift of standing 
absolutely still for as long as one wanted her to stand. 

It was a great help to me, for I was able to teach 
her how to walk and how to move. There was not a 
movement across the stage, not a single gesture of her 
part in The Merry Widow that we did not go through 
together, and I realized that here was a girl who had 
both beauty and intelligence, but who had never learnt 
how to make the best of herself. So shy and diffident 
was she in those days that a less astute producer than 
George Edwardes would in all probability have passed 
her over and left her in the chorus, while he promoted 
to stardom some girl without a tenth part of her gifts. 

One of the first thing? I did for Lily Elsie was to 
make her alter the style of her hairdressing, and after 
one or two experiments to see what suited her, I evolved 
the fashion of coiling it neatly and flat to that beauti- 
fully shaped little head of hers. The result was a 
complete change in her appearance, and George 
Edwardes was as delighted with the result as she was. 






DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 103 

I was at Daly’s at that triumphant first night of 
The Merry Widow , when everyone was accl aiming the 
new star whom George Edwardes had discovered* Lily 
Elsie was generous in her praise of me, and thanked 
me for the help and inspiration I had given her. 

“It has been the greatest night of my life, and I 
owe it all to you V ’ she cried, throwing her arms 
impulsively round my neck, when I went into her 
dressing-room afterwards. 

From that day I designed all her clothes for her 
both for the stage and in private life, and some of my 
most successful models were created for her, for once 
she had “found herself” she wore her clothes so charm- 
ingly that every woman who saw them wanted to have 
them copied. 

I have never known any woman who had the power 
of turning men’s heads in the way that Lily Elsie did. 
During the years I knew her she had a perfect galaxy 
of suitors, who used to shower presents upon her and 
wait at the stage doors for hours on the chance of a 
few words from her before she left the theatre. She 
was absolutely indifferent to most of them, for she 
once told me that she disliked the male character, and 
considered that men only behaved tolerably to a woman 
who treated them coldly. 

“I have never been fool enough to give my heart 
to one of them,” she said, “and so they think it must 
be worth having.” 

So she used to keep millionaires and foreign princes 
hanging about in the cold, draughty passages at Daly’s 
while she and her mother shared a picnic supper of 
cold ham in her dressing-room. She honestly pre- 
ferred it to champagne at the Rita. 

On the first night of The Dollar Princess I joined 
them both. Lily Elsie was looking radiant, and I 
noticed that she was wearing a necklace which had 
been sent to her by one of the richest men in London. 



104 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

It had arrived as a porte-bonheur for her first nig ht, 
and we examined it together. 

It was composed of rubies, which lay like a blood- 
red streak round her neck. One very large and flawless 
diamond was suspended from it. Its value must have 
run into many thousands of pounds, for the stones had 
been specially selected. 

While we were sitting looking at it, Lily Elsie's 
mother came in with the message that the sender was 
waiting outside the dressing-room to know when he 
might take Lily out to lunch or dinner. 

“Oh, I have not one free day for a fortnight," 
she said carelessly. “I'm afraid he will have to 
wait." 

“You can't be so unkind after getting that lovely 
present," her mother said. “Do fix up something to 
cheer him up a bit. I am getting tired of telling him 
you can't see him." 

“Oh, have it your own way, then. Tell him he 
can come and take me out on Wednesday." 

We heard his profuse thanks through the door. 

“I'm always rude to men," she told me another 
time. “And the ruder I am the more they like me." 

It was perfectly true. Her smiles and favours were 
sparingly dispensed, but men would do anything to 
win them. 

Once, I remember, she came into the showroom 
wearing a magnificent sable coat. The mannequins 
crowded round to admire. 

“Now don't you girls think I have done anything 
naughty to get this," she said. “Jack only gave it to 
me because he thought I might be cold." 

Some of her loveliest presents came from an elderly 
brother and sister, members of a Lancashire mill- 
owning family, and immensely rich. They both 
adored her, and after she had refused dozens of times 
to marry the brother, who was old enough to be her 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 105 

father, they were seized with the idea of adopting her, 
and she had some difficulty in resisting them tactfully. 
But unkind as she was to her younger suitors, she was 
kindness itself to this provincial couple, and used to 
take the sister shopping and trot them both round the 
town when they came up to London. 

Another actress whom I used to enjoy dressing was 
Gertie Millar, who was as amusing and full of vitality 
off the stage as she was on it. She was one of the 
frankest women I have ever met, and would discuss 
her love affairs with the saleswomen, and make them 
laugh at the stories she told of her different admirers. 
She was a very home-loving woman. 

“A man likes a domestic woman,” she said once. 
“I keep ... in love with me because he knows I 
would sew buttons on his trousers and put poultices 
on his chest, if he had a cold." 

She certainly did keep him in love with her for 
many years. 

Gertie Millar had that gift of complete absence of 
self-consciousness. She never pretended to an emotion 
she did not feel, and was always “herself” at every 
minute of the day, and this simplicity endeared her 
to everyone she came in contact with. 

She had a tremendous circle of friends in every 
class from royalty to cabmen and charwomen. Once 
she told me that her friendship with the Duke of 
Z . . . had meant a tremendous lot in her life, for it 
had begun at a very bad moment when she was “down 
and qjit”, with no prospect, it seemed then, of getting 
an engagement. Their acquaintance was die result 
of a characteristic act of kindliness on her part. She 
had gone to visit Elizabeth Firth, who was ill at that 
time, and the Duke of Z . . . came in to inquire after 
the invalid. The friendship which resulted from this 
casual meeting changed her whole life, for after that 
her luck turned. His encouragement and admiration 



106 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

gave her new heart and enabled her to make a brilliant 
success of her stage career. 

Another memory I have of the year 1907 is of my 
daughter Esme's marriage. She was so young at the 
time that her engagement was a positive shock to me, 
for I still saw her as a child. In the years that I had 
been designing dresses and building up my business 
she had grown a very beautiful girl, and I suppose 
that I ought to have realized the inevitable truth that 
someone would take her from me sooner or later. 
When it happened I was quite unprepared for it, so 
much so that some months before when a fortune- 
teller, whom I had gone to consult, told me amongst 
other things that my daughter would be engaged 
before the end of the year I laughed. 

“Why, she is far too young/' I said. 

However the woman persisted that she saw the 
marriage taking place, and added that my daughter 
would meet her fiance on the stage. I was rather 
upset at this, for I did not want her to marry an actor, 
and I could quite imagine the possibility of her doing 
so, for she loved acting and was always taking part in 
some amateur performance or other. 

I had forgotten all about the prophecy when some 
months after Esme went down to Harlow to play in 
a comedy, which was being given for charity. Almost 
at the last moment the young man who was to have 
taken the juvenile lead had an accident, and a frantic 
telegram was sent to the O.U.D.S. asking them to 
supply someone to take over the part. They sent an 
undergraduate, Viscount Tiverton, the son of the 
Earl of Halsbury, the Lord Chancellor, and rehearsals 
were started immediately. 

I cannot remember much of the play, although I 
went to see it, but it was a great success. It was also 
the fulfilment of the clairvoyante's prophecy, for from 
the very first moment at rehearsals Lord Tiverton fell 





DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 107 

in love with Esmi, and before the final performance 
he had persuaded her to promise to marry him* 

The first thing I heard of their engagement was 
when I received a frantic wire from a friend, sent to 
the hotel in Paris where I was staying on a short 
holiday, saying : "For Heaven's sake come back. 
Esme is getting engaged or something." 

I returned home just in time to give my consent 
before they took the law into their own hands and got 
married without it 1 They were married at St. Peter's, 
Eaton Square, on July 7th. 

The wedding was one of the prettiest of the year, 
and I had designed the bride's Empire dress of tulle, 
and sewed it myself, as I had sewn all her things since 
she was a baby. 

She looked very beautiful and innocent as she walked 
down the aisle, and I prayed that her marriage might 
be a really happy one. 

After I had sent them off on their honeymoon, and 
the last guest had left the reception, I went back to 
Hanover Square, where I put all my dreams for my 
daughter's happiness into a little dress of palest green 
chiffon. It looked like a cascade of leaves blown 
together, the sort of dress Eve might have worn, if 
she had ever worn dresses, I told myself. One day 
a woman came in to choose a dress. She was very 
beautiful, and married to a rich man. Everybody 
supposed the marriage to be ideally happy. She began 
to talk to me, and I could see that she was amused at 
something. 

She said : "I have just come back from abroad, 
and soon I am going to enjoy myself very much indeed." 

I asked her what she was going to do, and she 
replied that it was something she had already done 
several times, and the doing of it had given her the 
greatest thrill of all her life. 

She explained that her husband, who was very 



Io8 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

much in love with her, was very strict, and was above 
all things madly jealous. She used to slip away abroad 
on some pretext or other, and there indulge in a 
passionate love affair, with some man whose appearance 
pleased her. She would then arrange that the lover 
of the moment should write to her the most devoted 
letters. These she would keep carefully. On her return 
to England she would invite her husband's and her 
own relations to a dull, family dinner. On some 
occasions she used to place herself next to her husband. 
Then she would deliberately lay her bag between 
them, dose to his hand. In the bag reposed her lover's 
letters, any one of which would have been sufEdent 
to wreck her marriage and condemn her to a life of 
social ostradsm. It was a marvellous thrill, she con- 
fessed to me, with shining eyes. 

"Why once," she said, "he actually took up the 
bag and examined the clasp. I thought he was going 
to open it. It was the most exciting moment I ever 
had in my life !" 

Her enjoyment was perfectly sincere as she told me 
this. She was, I think, the greatest gambler of any 
woman I have ever known, but ordinary stakes were 
not big enough for her. 

I thought of her afterwards when I went over to 
Paris again. 

Paris is a dty that disturbs one's moral values. At 
least I have always found it so. I used to say when I 
was young : "I must go over to Paris to be made to 
feel I am a woman." 

Business counts in London, but to a woman only 
the fact of being a woman counts in Paris. Everything 
conspires to make her feel this, most of aU the admir- 
ation that is meted out to her by practically every male 
passer-by, that admiration which we resent In youth* 
tolerate in our middle years, and are so grateful for 
in our old age. The wise woman will keep away from 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS lO£ 

Paris, though, when she grows old and let it remain 
a city of beautiful memories. 

I think that on the whole the Frenchwoman is 
happier in her emotional life than the Englishwoman, 
for her outlook is simpler and more pagan. She 
adjusts her values far more easily than we do, because 
she is practical to the core. You rarely see in France 
the unhappy sex-starved women you see on this side 
of the Channel. The majority of them marry, and 
here the dot system is of great help, but those who 
do not, build their lives round a lover as a matter of 
course. They recognize and accept a perfectly natural 
state of things without any hypocrisy. 

This candour of theirs was typified by a little 
incident that happened one day in the showroom. A 
masseur used to come every day to massage one of 
my mannequins, who had severely sprained her ankle. 
One morning he was very late, and the girl in question 
was showing dresses to a haughty French Marquise, 
a member of one of the oldest families in France. He 
came in wreathed in smiles, but very apologetic. 

"Pardon, that I have kept Mademoiselle waiting/* 
he said with a low bow in the direction of the Marquise. 
"But I was unavoidably detained this morning. I 

went to give my usual massage to Madame S 

(a very celebrated French actress) but Monsieur B , 

who was with her in bed, refused to get up, and I had 
to wait quite half an hour.” 

My English mannequin looked rather taken aback, 
but the Marquise was interested. 

"Monsieur B V* she inquired. "I thought it 

was Monsieur L who was the ami** 

**Ah t non , Madame la Marquise ” replied the 
masseur, with another low bow. "We have not seen 

Monsieur L for quite a long time now/' 

This same masseur was a great character. He used 
to go from one regular client to another, retailing half 



no DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

the gossip of Paris. But he was very discreet where 
la noblesse was concerned. He had the inner histories 
of most of the families of Le Faubourg, but nothing 
would induce him to discuss them. One of the curious 
complexes of modern democratic France is its secret 
veneration for old families. 

As a rule the sacred confines of Le Faubourg are 
rigidly barred to any who have not been born within 
its precincts, but I, because of my Canadian-French 
connections, was welcomed with open arms to its 
insufferably dull receptions, and tedious family gather- 
ings, on my early visits to Paris. When, however, I 
took up dressmaking as a means of making a living 
my aristocratic relations were unutterably shocked. 
They refused even to mention my name in the presence 
of the younger generation lest my unfortunate example 
should inspire them to rebellion. 

As the years passed by and they heard reports of 
my progress in London, and discovered that I was 
not being excluded from the social fold there, they 
began to hold out tentative olive branches. My 
appearance in Paris as a grande couturiere was, how- 
ever, a great trial to them, for they were never able 
quite to overlook the shame of having a relation, even 
a distant one, who had so far forgotten the slogan of 
noblesse oblige as to enter the ranks of trade. The one 
reflection from which they could find a little conso- 
lation was that English people were notably eccentric, 
and they never failed to impress this explanation of 
my extraordinary conduct on all their friends. 

On my last visit to Paris I was struck by the fact 
that the War, which has wrought so many changes in 
the social life of nearly every country in Europe, seems 
to have made so little difference to the remaining 
families of die old French regime. I went to one of 
the receptions in the Faubourg and found that every- 
thing was precisely the same as I remembered it in 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


III 


my girlhood. The same elderly servants, the same 
port wine and petit jours , the same pleasant, trivial 
conversation, and the same narrow opinions on any- 
thing outside France. It is really maddening to discuss 
politics or international affairs in the Faubourg, where 
even travelling abroad is regarded as a disloyalty, and 
an almost monumental ignorance prevails on the 
subject of current events in England or America, or 
any country which is not France. 

There is, though, another, and a rather beautiful, 
side to the Faubourg, and that is the courage with 
which it faces its poverty. It is a very unspectacular 
kind of courage for nobody even mentions the word 
“poverty” there, it would be an offence against one 
of the most sacred articles of the code. But diminish- 
ing bank balances and mortgaged acres in the Touraine 
have not lowered the Faubourg’s crest by one centi- 
metre. The conseil de famille has still absolute power 
to prevent Pierre from going into trade, and Helene 
from marrying the handsome son of a new-rich family. 
The fact that Pierre may eat out his heart in secret, 
banished to some tumble-down chateau, and Helene 
break hers in spinsterhood does not enter into the 
question. Noblesse oblige is an answer to many things. 



CHAPTER TEN 


O NLY the other day I was turning over the pages 
of an old ledger containing the names of some of 
my first clients at a time when “Lucile” was still going 
through its early growing-pains and I was needing all 
my courage to cope single-handed with what was 
rapidly becoming one of the biggest dressmaking 
houses in London* In those days every small triumph 
meant so much, every new name added to the books 
was a matter for jubilation, and the row of carriages 
drawn up outside the neat little house was still an 
■exciting novelty* 

So looking back after all these years I can still 
recapture the thrill of pleasure with which I entered 
the name of “The Duchess of York” on the ledger. 
I see that her first fitting was for “a blue satin dress 
with tucked yoke and sleeves”, so evidently, even as 
long ago as in the reign of Queen Victoria, Queen 
Mary (as she is to-day) was fond of blue. 

I believe that I owed this early royal patronage to 
Mrs. Willie James, then in the zenith of her career as 
a famous hostess, for from the very beginning she 
showed me the greatest kindness and did everything 
possible to make me known to her friends ; and as 
her influence at Court was practically unbounded at 
thi s time the command to send a selection of models 
to St. James's Palace was probably the result of her 
generous praise of my work. 

I chose simple dresses beautifully embroidered, 
but with nothing approaching the extreme in style, 
for I fancied, from what I had heard of her taste in 
dress, that these would be the most likely to appeal 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS II? 

to the Duchess of York. They were carefully packed 
and sent off in a carriage with my head fitter and her 
assistant. The latter was a raw Irish girl, very young 
and inexperienced, but exceedingly clever at her own 
work. I awaited their return with some trepidation, 
for although I had coached them thoroughly as to what 
they were to say and do I knew that a great deal 
depended on the success of this Court order, and I 
was very anxious that they should make a good impres- 
sion. They came back with the cheering news that the 
Duchess had taken two of the dresses I had sent and 
ordered some more. 

Of course I wanted to hear all about the visit to 
St. James's Palace and I sent for Mollie — the Irish 
girl — as the head fitter was busy. Mollie was garrulous 
as usual and quite ready to give her impressions of 
Royalty. 

“Sure, it's a fine great lady she is, the Duchess," 
she began, “though from the spark in her eye I would 
say she has a temper of her own. But she was just as 
kind and simple as- she could be, and she told me all 
about her baby (the Prince of Wales I think this was), 
and the cold he had on him. And I told her my own 
mother had brought up nine of us, and given us a drop 
of hot milk with a spoonful of treacle whenever we 
had a cold." 

Although I was inwardly wondering what was 
coming next, I could not resist a smile at the thought 
of the Duchess of York and my little Irish work-girl 
discussing the management of babies. Mollie con- 
tinued her story. The Duchess, she said, had tried 
on' all the dresses before choosing any, and had been 
very careful over both the fit and the price of the model. 

“And isn't it a wonder now," she went on, “that 
the Duchess wore only ordinary cotton underclothing 
with Swiss embroidery on it like my very own Sunday 
ones. I'm thinking she keeps her silk for best." 



1 14. DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

On the next occasion that we sent the girls to St. 
James's Palace for a fitting I warned Mollie that she 
was on no account to talk to the Duchess unless she 
was spoken to , and this had apparently upset her for 
when the Duke of York happened to come into the 
room as the Duchess was being fitted, Mollie, I was 
told, had dropped the entire contents of the large box 
of pins she was holding. 

“But, sure, it didn't matter at all," she said in 
describing the incident, “the Duke is a real kind 
gentleman, and down he went on his knees and helped 
me to pick them all up." 

Her visits to the Duchess of York were not the 
only ones to Royal patrons which Mollie had to make 
while she was with me, and I sometimes wondered 
whether her ready wit and shrewd observation delighted 
the august ladies she fitted as much as they did me, 
for she was very popular with them. I remember 
that once, after going to Kensington Palace to fit 
Princess Alice, who was one of my most faithful clients 
and bought nearly everything she wore from me, 
Mollie told me of the simplicity of the household 
there. 

“I know they are very great people," she said, “and 
royal too, but for all that I'm thinking that the butler 
manages them all his own way, for when they were 
talking of some friends that they had invited for tea 
that afternoon, he said to them : 

“ 'Well then, you will just have to ask them to come 
another day, for you have forgotten that Lord and 

Lady are coming to lunch, and you know there 

is no getting rid of them until after tea/ 

“And they rang up and put them off," concluded 
Mollie. 

The Duchess of Connaught was always very 
charming to me and she and her daughters, the 
Princesses Margaret and Patricia, rarely missed one 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 115 

of my mannequin parades. Prince Arthur of Con- 
naught often came with them and used to be very 
interested in the models ; frequently he was present 
at his sisters' fittings, and used to watch them critically 
and occasionally offer advice. 

“You know altogether too much about clothes. 
You'll be a perfect nuisance to your wife, when you 
get married," one of them said to him jokingly once. 

I made all Princess Margaret's trousseau for her 
marriage to the Crown Prince of Sweden, and enjoyed 
doing it, for she was so interested in it herself and 
seemed to revel in the lovely materials I had got over 
specially from Lyons for her to choose from. She was 
deeply in love with her good-looking young Prince, 
and used to come to the showroom radiating happiness. 
Theirs was a real love match, and she adored him. 
She had a little miniature with his portrait inside set 
in a circle of pearls, which she wore round her neck, 
and she would not even take it off for her fittings. At 
that time I used to show the most beautiful under- 
clothes, filmy and transparent as gossamer, in a room 
set apart. It was called “The Rose Room", and was 
decorated in pink. In the centre of the room was an 
exquisite rose-pink and gold carved day-bed, which 
I had paid an enormous sum to have brought over 
from Paris. It was a copy of one which had belonged 
to Madame de Pompadour, and was like nothing that 
had been seen in London. On it used to lie an entranc- 
ingly pretty mannequin, dressed in the tea-gowns 
which I loved to create. No woman could resist the 
fascination of this room and I used to boast that I 
could sell anything in it. Prospective brides used to 
choose trousseaux costing about as much again as 
they had intended under its influence. 

When Princess Margaret came to. give her wedding 
order she was shown into this room, and I saw the 
colour deepen in her cheeks, while her eyes sparkled 



Il6 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

with mingled shyness and excitement, just as the eyes 
of every little engaged girl used to sparkle when she 
entered my rose room. The Duchess of Connaught 
was all for buying some more “sensible and service- 
able" underwear, but the Princess slipped her arm 
through her mother's and began to coax her mother, 
just as all daughters coax their mothers over their 
trousseaux, and presently the Duchess yielded and I 
made her a trousseau which would have delighted any 
girl's heart. 

It was a real grief to me when I learned of her 
early death, for I had very sweet memories of this 
affectionate, gentle Princess, She was one of the most 
considerate people I have ever met, and was always 
so anxious not to give any unnecessary trouble. Once 
I remember she was being shown into one of the 
fitting-rooms when there was a great demand for them, 
as many women had come to fit their dresses for a 
forthcoming ball, and another client very rudely 
stepped into the room ahead of her, and practically 
shut the door in her face, not knowing who she was, 
of course, although that was no justification for such 
lack of manners. The saleswoman, who was attending 
to the Princess, was distressed and said that she would 
ask the woman to wait her turn, which was after the 
Princess, but the latter would not hear of it. 

“That is quite all right, I will wait until she has 
finished," she said, and ‘quietly 'took up her position 
in a queue of women in the corridor. 

Princess Margaret as a young girl was very fond 
of having her fortune told. _ She once described to me 
how some months before she met her fiance she had 
visited an old woman who lived, I believe, in a little 
house in Hammersmith in order to have her cards 
read. The fortune teller had not, of course, the least 
idea of the identity of the pretty girl who consulted 
her, for the Princess had been cargful to wear very 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 117 

inconspicuous clothes, and to change her appearance 
as much as possible, but she had been surprisingly 
accurate in her predictions. She had not only foretold 
an engagement to a foreigner of very exalted rank, 
but had even given the approximate date and the 
exact circumstances of the meeting between the 
Princess and her future husband, all of which had 
later proved correct. 

Princess Margaret was not the only member of the 
royal family who was interested in fortune telling, 
I remember her once telling me that Queen Victoria 
loved to have the leaves in her teacup read, and had 
learnt to read them herself from an old woman who 
lived near Balmoral with whom she used sometimes 
to have tea on her afternoon drives. After that the 
Queen would occasionally be persuaded to read the 
teacups for some of the members of the royal family, 
and this was considered a great treat. 

Princess Patricia had always very good judgment 
in choosing her clothes, and is one of the best-dressed 
royalties in Europe, I think. On one occasion she 
brought Princess Mary to the showroom with her to 
see the models. At that time Princess Mary was only 
a young girl in her teens, and she was very much 
impressed with the collection of evening dresses 
which were put on by the mannequins for them. 

“They are more lovely than anything I have ever 
seen,” she told the saleswoman, “but I could never 
afford them. You see my dress allowance is only 
£50 a year.” 

Princess Mary was very methodical in the expen- 
diture of her money and had been taught to keep a 
careful account of each item, for the Queen believed 
in making 4 ier daughter cultivate economical habits, 
and if she exceeded her allowance it was never supple- 
mented. If I remember rightly she received it twice 
a year, half in the spring and half in die autumn, and 



Il8 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


she had to balance the two amounts so that she was 
not left without anything after the first half of her 
allowance had been spent to carry her through the 
months which had to elapse before she received the 
next half-year's money* 

It was from Princess Patricia that I learned that 
King George was the arbiter in the matter of the 
fashions worn by both the Queen and Princess Mary 
before her marriage* It was his taste that ruled the 
very distinctive style of dressing adopted by both of 
them, not their own. The King has the greatest 
dislike for anything bordering on the exaggerated and 
liked to see his daughter dressed as simply as she would 
be if she had been born into the family of a country 
squire* She was expected to defer to his wishes in 
this, and although the Queen was naturally under no 
obligation to do the same, she was always guided by 
the King's taste in choosing her own clothes. 

Being presented to the President of the United 
States at The White House in Washington is a very 
different affair from a presentation to Queen Mary at 
Buckingham Palace* The latter, as everyone knows, 
is a strictly formal occasion, but with the former 
there is no ceremony of any kind. You just get some 
Senator of your acquaintance (Senator Warren acted 
for me) to send in your name and request an audience. 
If the President grants one, you arrive any time between 
ten and one on the morning you are expected, dressed 
in ordinary morning outfit. You take your place in 
a queue in a long hall — quite an ordinary, hideously 
decorated hall, hung with dingy green rep curtains 
(at least they were green rep when I was there) — 
from which you pass into a large, ugly brown-and- 
green room with a long table down the centre 
coveted with green cloth. It is here the President 
receives you. You follow the queue slowly round the 
table, and when you reach the President the official 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 119 

calls out your name, the President shakes you by the 
hand and you pass on your way if he does not speak 
to you. 

In my case the President stepped forward, shook 
hands with me warmly and said : "I'm so pleased 
to meet you. Lady Duff Gordon. I've just been read- 
ing your 'Memories'.” He talked quickly, asking me 
questions and never waiting to hear my replies, 
and did not listen when I tried to explain that the 
"Memories” he was talking about were those of my 
husband's aunt, Lucy Lady Duff Gordon, who had 
died in the early 'eighties ! 

The rest of the queue, meanwhile, were getting res- 
tive. The looks they sent me were not exactly pleas- 
ant ones, though it was no fault of mine. Senator 
Warren told me afterwards that I ought to feel highly 
elated as Roosevelt seldom spoke to any of his callers. 
So, looking back, I do feel grateful to the "Memories” 
of my husband's aunt, because it was certainly those 
"Memories” which gained me five minutes' attention 
from that very noble and great President of the 
United States, Theodore Roosevelt. 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 


W HEN 1909 dawned I was at the height of my 
success in London. Orders were pouring in, 
and I was making more money than I knew what to 
do with, yet my restless spirit impelled me to seek new 
fields. 

I have never been a business woman in the strict 
sense of the word, although I have made a fortune in 
trade. To me it was always the creative side of my 
work that mattered. I designed my dresses far more 
with the object of pleasing myself than to make money, 
though I was glad enough to spend it when it was 
made. 

During my life, especially in the years when I 
worked in America, I have met many of the world's 
most successful men. They have all told me the same 
thing, that the thrill of building up a fortune, of seeing 
it grow litde by little, and feeling themselves in com- 
mand of more money year by year was the best part 
of it. 

Perhaps women are different. I know I am. Money 
never represented money to me, it only stood for the 
things I wanted to buy. It was something turned 
over quickly and easily, made to be spent as it came 
in. In the years when I was earning thousands of 
pounds I was as ignorant of the actual mechanism of 
my business as a child. I never knew what my capital 
was, and I have never known my bank balance in those 
days, except that it was a very considerable one. I 
never bothered to save anything, and left others to 
speculate for me, and so eventually I lost most of the 
money which years of work had brought me. Perhaps 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 131 

if I had been wiser and thought more of the future 
then, I should be happier to-day, but I am not sure. 
Life is full of compensations. I had a wonderful 
time during those years when I spent recklessly, and 
gave even more recklessly, and I think I made a great 
many other people happy. Now, although I am no 
longer a rich woman, I still have enough to live 
“comfortably”, as most people call it, and I have my 
memories. Can anyone ask more of life ? 

In 1909 “LucileY' was making nearly £40,000 a 
year, and my husband pointed out to me that with my 
share of this I was a comparatively rich woman. He 
suggested that I should take a holiday. I needed one 
very badly, and had been urged to take one several 
times before. I made up my mind to go to America. 

That was an exceptionally busy year. Courts, 
weddings and plays kept us working at full pressure 
the whole time, and it was not until the winter, the 
quietest time of the dressmaker's year, that I was able 
to get away. 

So I spent Christmas in New York, and had my 
first taste of the marvellous hospitality of Americans. 
I arrived there with a number of letters of introduction, 
and before I had been at my hotel three days I had 
received more invitations than I could possibly accept, 
and made more friends than I should have made in 
London in three months, had the position been 
reversed and were I a visiting American. 

The Americans have left us far behind in the art 
of welcoming a stranger, and that is why our unfriend- 
liness is a continual surprise to them when they come 
over to Europe. From the moment I landed I was 
overwhelmed with little kindnesses and attentions, 
and everyone seemed to have made some delightful 
plan for me over the holidays, so that I should be made 
to feel happy and at home. 

However, I chose to spend Christmas with an old 



122 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

friend, Elsie de Wolfe, that very charming American, 
who is now the wife of Sir Charles Mendl. I had 
known her for years both in London and in Paris, 
where she passed the summer months at her beautiful 
Villa Trianon in Versailles, and she had been delighted 
at the prospect of my coming to New York and was 
the first person to meet me when I stepped off the boat, 

Elsie and I ate our Christmas dinner at the Waldorf 
Hotel with Charles Deering, the multi-millionaire, 
who made his colossal fortune out of his famous 
“harvester” machines. We were all very gay, and like 
everybody who goes to New York, I was already feel- 
ing myself recharged with the vitality of all the people 
with whom I came in contact. The effect of the climate, 
which always gives one the illusion of being able to 
do twice as much there as in London, was beginning 
to make me forget how tired I had been feeling before 
I left England, and I was enjoying it all enormously. 

The restaurant was crowded with the smartest 
people in New York, and of course Elsie and I began 
to talk about clothes and pick out the dresses which 
we liked the best. We decided that most of them were 
copies of Paris models, but that their wearers had 
chosen them indiscriminately and without taste. 

“If you knew how much they have cost,” said Elsie, 
“you would probably be astonished. We pay far more 
for clothes here than in Europe, but we have no really 
good designers, and we have to buy models brought 
over from France.” 

“Some of these women are extraordinarily attract- 
ive,” I said, “but they don't know how to dress. I 
wish I could teach them.” 

“Why don't you? I have a splendid idea. You 
must open a shop over here. American women will 
love your dresses, and they will think it absolutely the 
last word in chic to be dressed by an English society 
woman.” 




THE LATE LORD HA-LSBURY WITH ANTHONY, HIS GRANDSON 

AND MINE 

he was 88 years old in this picture 

[l32 





DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 133 

From that moment I was fired with enthusiasm. 
Her plan seemed to me the ideal solution to the bore- 
dom which had been beginning to descend on me in 
Loridon. It would mean a widening of my life and 
interests, and I had enough faith in myself to believe 
that it would also bring in a great deal of money. I 
had more than enough capital to justify the risk of 
such a venture, and I knew that a branch in New York 
could easily be run in conjunction with the London 
house. 

Before I did anything I consulted two friends, 
excellent business men both of them, whose advice I 
could trust. One was Arthur Brisbane, the other 
Sam Newhouse, the copper king. After hearing all 
particulars they were both just as enthusiastic as I 
was, and promised to help me in every possible way. 

The first thing to do was to look for a suitable 
house, and here their advice was very useful, for they 
chose the neighbourhood, and helped me over the 
arrangements for the lease, when I eventually found 
one. It was in West Thirty-sixth Street, and although 
it was not quite as roomy as I should have liked, it 
was excellent for a start. 

Having taken the house I gave orders for it to be 
decorated in the same soft shade of grey which I had 
found so successful in Hanover Square, and then, 
after installing Celia, who had been my right hand in 
London for many years, as manageress, I returned to 
England to prepare the collection of models which I 
would take out with me for the opening in New York. 

Meanwhile the astute publicity man, whom I had 
engaged in America, had begun his campaign, and 
the newspapers came out with columns about the first 
English lady of title who was to open a shop to dress 
the four hundred. There were stories of myself and 
of my husband's family, even the Duff Gordon family 
ghost had half a column to itself, and the coat of arms 



134 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

was reproduced in a dozen illustrations. There were 
pictures of the illustrious ladies I had dressed in London, 
of my royal clients and the dresses they had bought, 
and of my sister, Elinor Glyn, already well-known in 
the States as a novelist. My daughter's marriage was 
described in glowing accounts, and there were pictures 
of her home, her husband, and her father-in-law, 
Lord Halsbury. 

Of course I was delighted at all this publicity, but 
when I said that I should have preferred it to be 
directed rather on my dresses than on my social 
qualifications and aristocratic relations my American 
friends were surprised. 

“But that is exactly what is going to make you a 
success in New York 1" they one and all told me. 
“Everybody will flock to you at first just for the sake 
of being dressed by a woman with an English title. 
Afterwards, of course, you will stand on your own 
merits and people will come to you because they like 
your clothes." 

So there was nothing to do but submit to being 
“Lady Duff Gordon, first English swell to trade in 
New York”, as one paper put it, rather than “ ‘Lucile’, 
the famous dressmaker, opening a branch in New 
York", as I would have chosen to word it. 

In the end I had to admit that my publicity man 
had been right, for he had understood his own people. 
The one thing that counts in America is self-adver- 
tisement of the most blatant sort. Publicity which 
we would set down as incredibly bad taste is only 
taken as a matter of course there, and one simply has 
to realize from the start that the louder you blow your 
own trumpet the more likely is it to be heard above the 
noise of your neighbour's, so I would advise those 
whose lungs are not strong enough for a contest of this 
sort to keep out of it altogether. 

I am referring now to the commercial side of life 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 125 

in the States especially, but it reflects to a great extent 
on the social life* The keynote of everything there 
is to impress all around you. Impress them with your 
ancestry, impress them with your possessions, with 
your bank-book, with the price you paid for your car, 
or your dog, or your hat, remembering that every- 
thing you are and say and do will be taken at your own 
valuation. 

I could never quite get used to this, although in 
time I learnt to understand, learnt even to take advan- 
tage of it. If I wanted to sell a very exclusive and 
particularly expensive model to the wife of a million- 
aire, I discovered that far more infallible than any 
discussions of its beauty, or of how much it suited her, 
was the casual information that “Mrs. So-and-So”, 
the wife of her husband's business rival, had just ordered 
two new gowns. After that I always sold the dress, 
and generally two or three others with it. If the 
husband happened to be with her he would be my 
principal ally, and would order a dozen or more 
dresses on the spot. 

Englishmen, as a rule, although they like to see 
their wives well-dressed, do not bother very much 
about their clothes, but it is quite the reverse in America. 
There the husband looks on his wife as a definite 
advertisement. If she is shabby or not as resplendent 
as she might be, it reflects on his prosperity, whereas 
if she makes other women envious of her wonderful 
sable coat, or diamond necklace, it shows other men 
how well his business is doing. So he does not mind 
how much he pays for her dress allowance, since he 
regards it in the light of a very necessary investment. 
If she lets him down in public by not being in the 
forefront of fashion he is just as annoyed with her as 
the Englishman is when his wife presents him with a 
sheaf of bills far exceeding her dress allowance. 

I remember one instance which happened soon 



126 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

after I had opened in New York, which is very typical 
of this attitude on the part of the American man. 

I designed a dress for the wife of one very rich 
business man. She was a beautiful little creature, a 
perfect medieval type, with a clear, ivory skin, regular 
features and that shade of red hair which we call Titian. 
I admired her so much that it was a pleasure to design 
for her, and I made her a dress such as she would have 
worn if one of the Renaissance painters had put her 
beauty on canvas. It was in palest green velvet, with 
a little, tight bodice sewn with pearls, and wide sleeves 
embroidered in the same pattern of tiny pearls. It 
was one of the loveliest dresses I ever made, and even 
the girls in the shop exclaimed how perfectly it suited 
her. She was delighted with it, although she was 
rather doubtful about the pearls. 

“I suppose they are not real ?” she asked me. 

‘'Oh, no, they would be worth a fortune if they 
were,” I answered, thinking naturally that she was 
alarmed at its probable cost. 

A few days later I discovered how mistaken I had 
been. She came into the shop nearly in tears. Her 
husband had, she said, been furious with her. She 
had worn her new dress at a dinner party, which they 
had given at their beautiful house. Unfortunately 
one of the guests had been another business man, 
equally rich, who had brought his wife. Her dress, 
of red satin, had had a collar of real diamonds sewn 
round the neck! This was bad enough, but worse 
was to follow, for she had actually asked her hostess 
in a patronizing tone whether the tiny pearls, which 
I had thought a positive inspiration on my model, 
were real. So my poor little client, to her own and 
her husband's intense discomfiture, had been obliged 
to admit that they were imitation. 

Afterwards there had been a painful (domestic 
scene and she had been absolutely forbidden to wear 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 127 

the dress again. As a solace for his wounded pride the 
husband had gone out and bought her a sort of dog- 
collar in diamonds, an atrocity I thought it, but it had 
cost a fortune, and she had come to me to ask me to 
design her the sort of dress which would best show it 
off. 

For the moment I was tempted to refuse to make 
her anything else, but I realized that she was desper- 
ately in earnest and had been terribly distressed at 
the contretemps over the green velvet. So I made her 
a white satin dress, which had exactly the same pur- 
pose as the drapings of white satin on which the 
jewels are laid in jewellers' windows, and when she 
had on her full regalia the effect was very much the 
same, but she was overjoyed with it, and so was the 
husband. 

But it taught me a lesson. I never again made 
the mistake in America of trying to sell something 
which was not costly enough, however beautiful it 
might be. 

I was reminded of this story on my next visit to 
Paris, when I accompanied a friend who was going to 
buy a pair of shoes. She went to Yantony, and if you 
have not heard of Yantony, then you do not know your 
Paris. Yantony has his shop in the Place Vendome, 
but he is more than a shoemaker, he is a legend. To 
buy your shoes from him gives you immediately a 
definite social prestige, it marks you as one of the elect. 
Yantony is very, very autocratic; he is also very 
expensive. First of all you have to “consult" him, in 
other words to show him your foot. If it is suffici- 
ently aristocratic to do him credit you may breathe 
again. He will work for you. He has, however, been 
known to close his doors on world-famous actresses 
and notably generous millionaires, for Yantony is not 
to be bribed. He will only make for whom he will. 
The next step is that you pay him £1,000 (25,000 francs 



138 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

at pre-War value) down as a deposit, after which he 
will make shoes for you, and you may display your 
foot proudly before the elite, who will recognize the 
master's handiwork at a glance. 

All this was told me by the American woman who 
took me for the first time to the little shop in the Place 
Vendome. I was immensely amused and said that I 
must have a pair of shoes made there. Yantony came 
to inspect my foot. It was a solemn moment, at least 
for my friend, for I could see she was quite nervous, 
and was visibly relieved when he approved of it. 

While we were there the wife of a Chicago million- 
aire, whom I had met several times in New York, 
came in to be fitted for a pair of shoes. She and her 
husband were staying at the Ritz, and she was evidently 
elated because someone had introduced her to Yan- 
tony's shoes. She informed me proudly that he made 

for le Prince de and la marquise de and reeled 

out one title after another, until I was quite dazed, 
and glad to leave the shop. 

The next day she rang me up and asked me to 
lunch at her hotel. She and her husband were in a 
difficult position and would be most grateful if I would 
give them my advice. I wondered what on earth it 
was, but of course said that I would do my best to 
help them. When I arrived I could see that they were 
both upset, but we talked of trivial things during 
lunch, and it was not until we had finished our coffee 
in their magnificent suite that the distressing subject 
was broached by the husband. 

His wife, he told me, had been to Yantony to have 
her shoes fitted, in fact I had seen her there. Unfor<- 
tunately, after I had left the shop, it transpired, the 
shoes, when they had been tried on, had hurt her, 
and she had been so unwise as to find fault with 
Yantony, and criticize his work. This rank heresy 
had so offended the autocrat that he had, then and 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


129 


there, handed her back her deposit, and told her that 
never again in his life would he make her another 
pair of shoes* The poor woman had come home 
rudely shaken in her self-confidence to recount the 
direful tragedy to her husband* He had immediately 
rushed round to the shop with the only olive branch 
he could think of — a cheque for double the amount 
of the deposit — only to be met with wounded dignity 
and a blank refusal. It was most regrettable for 
Monsieur, but Yantony could never receive Madame 
in his shop again. There was not enough money in 
America to pay him to work for her. 

This was where I came in. Would I, for surely 
I would not appeal in vain on their behalf, act as 
mediator ? 

It was all so ludicrous that I nearly burst out 
laughing, but they were both perfecdy serious about 
it. The wife was overwhelmed at the thought of her 
gaffe, which she dreaded above all things might at 
any moment reach the ears of some of her friends ; 
and the husband was genuinely puzzled at having 
come upon something which was quite out of his 
depth. He could not even pretend to understand the 
pride which had refused his cheque. All he knew was 
that his wife would not be able, on her return to 
America, to show shoes which had been made at the 
smartest shop in Europe. 

Well, of course, I went round to the shop, where 
I had to listen to Yantony 's side of the story. Event- 
ually I was able to restore peace, and two very happy 
Americans caught the next boat with a triumphant 
array of shoe boxes, bearing the neat label of “the 
aristocrat's bootmaker”. They told me when I went 
to see them off that they had spent over fifteen thousand 
dollars on shoes alone during their visit to Paris, and 
this was not a twentieth part of what the wife had 
spent on dresses and hats. 


1 



130 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

Probably I shall be accused of exaggeration in these 
figures, for I think that most people have forgotten the 
wave of extravagance which swept over the fashion- 
able world about this time, and lasted until the War. 
Women literally spent fortunes on their wardrobes, 
especially in New York, which was following the lead 
of Paris, and, having more money, surpassing it in its 
positively staggering expenditure. Even I, who have 
always set my face against ostentation, was obliged to 
advertise my models in some papers . as “Money 
Dresses” before I opened in New York. 

“I call these money dresses because it takes so 
much to buy them,” I began my article, and indeed 
it was true. 

Only the other day I came across an old ledger 
which I had in New York, when I first opened there. 
It gives a fair idea of the dress bills of some of my 
clients. I think it might interest most people to com- 
pare them with present-day figures, so I give them 
here. 

These particular figures were for clothes supplied 
to Mrs. Van Valkenbergh, who was called “The 
Ten Million Dollar Widow” by the cheap Press of 
the day. 

Evening wrap . ♦ Four thousand dollars 

Evening gown . . Four hundred dollars 

Afternoon gown . . Three hundred dollars 

Afternoon wrap . . Four hundred dollars 

Parasol . . . One hundred dollars 

All the expenditure was on the same scale, and 
this would have been considered quite an average dress 
bill for a society woman. 

The largest sums of all were spent on hats# 
for the crage for ospreys and other valuable plumage 
was at its height, and women would go about 




MYSELF IN xgio 

when I opened “Lucile” in New York 


[130 





DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 131 

with the equivalent of hundreds of pounds on their 
heads* 

The fashionable hat at that time, for which there 
was a mania very much like the recent one for the 
bowler, was christened “The Indian Chief”. The 
aigrettes upon this one hat were taken from the breasts 
of forty mother herons, and the whole hat, loaded 
down with these feathers, cost exactly five hundred 
pounds. 

I am glad to remember that I was one of the first 
to oppose this wanton cruelty and extravagance, and 
the ribbon-trimmed hats, which I brought in, did a 
great deal towards killing the popularity of plumage, 
for they were both younger and prettier. 

Another expensive item in the wardrobe of the 
fashionable woman of that time was footwear, as I 
have already mentioned. Evening slippers could run 
away with hundreds of pounds, especially if trimmed 
with feathers, which were the rage then. From two 
hundred to three hundred pounds a pair was not con- 
sidered outrageous. Many of my American clients 
would think nothing of ordering a pair to match each 
of their evening gowns, perhaps ten or a dozen in a 
season. One heiress, the daughter and grand-daughter 
of two of the richest men in New York, was not 
even satisfied with that. I made her a wonderful 
dress in a deep red velvet, which suited her dark, 
almost gypsy-like type perfectly ; with it she 
wore her famous diamonds, a magnificent tiara and 
necklace. 

I loved the dress and tried tactfully to persuade 
her to wear it without jewels, or at most a single rope 
of pearls, for such a display on a young girl (she was 
only twenty), seemed to me the height of bad taste. 
She would not listen to me, of Course, and only asked 
me to design her a pair of shoes to go with it. I sketched 
a charming little pair in the same velvet as the dress. 



132 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

with ribbons to lace cross-wise over the instep and tie 
in a bow at the ankle. As she had very pretty feet I 
thought this style would suit her better than any 
other. But she was most disappointed with the 
sketch, and went straight off to a very fashionable and 
fabulously expensive bootmaker, who designed her a 
pair of slippers sewn with real diamonds and rubies, 
and costing over a thousand pounds. 

Money was spent so readily in the States before 
the War because it was so easily made. In those boom 
years, when I first opened my New York branch, 
trade of every description was flourishing, and men 
of humble birth, who had worked all their youth for 
a few dollars a week, suddenly found themselves with 
almost unlimited money at their command. Of course 
it went to their heads, and for the time being they lost 
all sense of ordinary values. I remember, as an 
instance of this, one woman whose husband had made 
a fortune through the discovery of oil on his land. 
One of the first things he did was to bring her to me 
with carte blanche to choose as many dresses as she 
liked. She paid my special fee for a personal con- 
sultation, five hundred dollars, and I designed her 
several dresses. The clothes, in which she came to 
be fitted, were of the simplest cut, bought at the local 
shop of the small town in which they had lived, and 
her hands were still roughened from hard work. On 
one of them she wore a beautiful wrist watch, set in 
diamonds. Her husband, she told me proudly, had 
just paid five thousand dollars for it. 

The following day, when she came to the shop 
again, she told me casually that she had been robbed 
at her hotel, and that the watch was among the missing 
articles. At her next fitting I happened to be in the 
showroom to see another woman, who had come from 
a long distance, and could not spare the time to visit 
my studio, and noticed the watch on her wrist again. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 133 

“I am glad to see you have got it back again/' I 
said. “Did the police catch the thief?" 

“Oh, no, it is another watch. My husband went 
straight off to Cartier's and got me one just like it." 

And that was a woman who, only a year before, 
had been counting every cent of the weekly household 
bills and doing her own washing. 



CHAPTER TWELVE 


T OWARDS the end of February, 1910 , 1 embarked 
on the Lusitania for New York, taking with me 
the hundred and fifty models I had designed to con- 
quer that sophisticated city, and my four prettiest 
mannequins : Gamela, Corisande, Florence, and 
Phyllis* 

We were given a great send-off at a farewell fashion 
parade, which I held at Hanover Square to show the 
models which were being taken across the Atlantic. 
A thousand guests crowded into the big showroom ; 
the Duchess of Rutland, Lady Dudley, Lady Angela 
Forbes, Mrs* Asquith and her sister-in-law, Mrs. 
Tennant, were some of them I remember. Everyone 
was tremendously enthusiastic and the girls them- 
selves were so excited that Celia, who was to chaperone 
them on the voyage, could hardly keep them in order. 

Of course the American papers got hold of the story 
of this farewell parade, and came out with columns 
about it. My mannequins were described as “Cru- 
saders of the Dream Dresses, beautiful girls going on 
a new mission of mercy . . . the great mission of 
spreading among New York's Four Hundred the cult 
of the dream dress, that wondrous product of the 
genius of Lady Duff Gordon." 

Then followed glowing descriptions of the girls . . . 
“Gamela . . . tall and shapely and stately, with hair 
like the raven's wing, her unfathomable eyes shining 
with -light." 

“Corisande ... exquisitely English, fair and slim, 
pink and white, graceful and sweet and gentle, a girl 
after the heart of Marcus .Stone, who ought to sit 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 135 

dreamy-eyed on a marble seat in an old-world garden, 
thinking unutterable and tender thoughts/' 

“Florence * * . what the French call ‘spirituelle'. 
She sparkles ; her eyes are wandering diamonds and 
her smile is bom of wit. She is life ; she is Spring, 
with just a dazzle of sauciness.” 

“Phyllis . . ♦ should be placed in a picture - 
frame at once. Even she should hold a young lamb 
and lift up her glorious eyes to Heaven for ever . . 

Was it a wonder that my mannequins had become 
famous before ever they set their dainty little feet on 
American soil? 

When we landed there was an eager crowd of 
impressionable American youth waiting to welcome 
these victorious “crusaders”, and we were almost 
mobbed by photographers. Placards informed us that 
the “Titled Dressmaker and Her Golden Girls Arrive 
To-day To Show Americans How To Dress”. 

By this time the house in West Thirty-sixth Street 
had been got ready for us, and I was charmed with 
the scheme of decorations which Elsie de Wolfe had 
designed for me. It was a lovely, big, old, brownstone 
house, with massive doors, imposing staircases and 
high ceilings, an ideal setting for my parades. At 
one end of the long showroom the miniature stage, a 
replica of the one in Hanover Square, had been put up 
and draped with curtains of misty blue chiffon, and 
divans and comfortable chairs lined the walls. Nothing 
remained to be done except to send out the invitations 
and supervise the final details. 

I could never forget that first fashion parade in 
America, for it was one of the milestones of my career. 
Long before the orchestra began the soft prelude which 
heralded the entrance of the first mannequin the room 
was crowded with “the most stylishly dressed of New 
York women, leaders of fashion, leaders of suffrage, 
leaders of music, leaders of dramatic art”, as one 



136 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

newspaper described the gathering next day. From 
the moment that Gamela parted the heavy grey cur- 
tains and stepped out, a vision of beauty in a ball gown 
of undulating, aquamarine blue, it was a triumphant 
success. 

I looked round at that audience of women, the 
richest, most sophisticated women in the world, and 
knew that I had provided them with just the new 
sensation they had been waiting for. Once again, as 
I had done in London, I had turned the serious 
business of buying clothes into a social occasion. 

What a reception my "emotional dresses" had. 
The names intrigued them : practical New York had 
never thought of going out to dine in "Love Will Find 
Out A Way", nor to lunch in "The Wine of Life". 
They pictured their young daughters in "The Liquid 
Whisper Of Early Spring", attending their first ball, 
and themselves in "Essence Of The Dusk" or "Leon 
Bakst" attending the splendid entertainments which 
were then a feature of social life in New York. 

When the parade was ended the saleswomen found 
that they had booked orders for over a thousand gowns. 

Those were wonderful days in New York for me, 
for all doors were opened to me. I was invited to 
every ball and party given by the members of "The 
Four Hundred", I was fSted and treated as though I 
had been a visiting royalty. New York took me to its 
hospitable heart ; I became the rage. It is difficult 
for English people to realize what this sort of thing means 
in America, for we have nothing like it. I could hardly 
put my nose outside my hotel without encountering 
Press men and photographers ; my telephone kept ring- 
ing all day ; perfect strangers asked if they might call 
on me or give me invitations to go to their houses; 
I had a “fan mail" of hundreds of letters every day ; 
and from a dozen or more towns came requests for me 
to go and lecture and display my wonderful models 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 137 

there* Several newspapers asked me to contribute 
weekly fashion articles, and eventually W. R. Hearst 
secured me for his group* I blossomed forth as a 
journalist in the New York American . 

Meanwhile I was dressing “everybody who mattered 
in society” — I quote from another newspaper, not my 
own articles — and incidentally making a fortune in 
doing it* I have still an order list for April, 1910* It 
only covers three days, yet I see there were orders 
booked for two hundred and ten dresses. 

Madame Nordica, the opera singer, Mrs* F. Gould, 
Mrs* Reginald Vanderbilt, Mrs* Stuyvesant Fish and 
Mrs. Payne Whitney were among the Clients on the 
list, none of the dresses cost less than three hundred 
dollars (£60 in those days), and there were hats, 
gloves and underclothes to go with them* I was 
offered any sum I liked to ask for personal consul- 
tations. In addition to this I could have made enor- 
mous sums, had I wanted to, in advertisement, for 
merely the fact of my being seen at any hotel or restau- 
rant proclaimed its chic, and I was offered blank cheques 
to allow my name to appear in connection with various 
enterprises* I remember once that the management 
of a big store wrote offering me the equivalent of 
£1,000, five thousand dollars, to walk into one of the 
departments, buy some small thing and allow the 
newspapers to record my presence there. 

Then there were the new-rich who asked me to 
become members of their house-parties or yachting 
parties for a consideration, so that the news that they 
were entertaining a woman of title might be circu- 
lated, and the hotel managers who invited me to stay 
in their best suites of rooms, and demand any fee I 
liked instead of paying one* This is not a custom I 
care for, although I am aware that it is extensively 
practised both in the States and in Europe* In London 
just before the War it reached its height and many of 



138 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

the women I dressed used to admit quite openly that 
they made hundreds of pounds a year by taking some 
social lion, or better still, some royal personage, to 
various restaurants. Several of the restaurants had 
actually a fixed scale of prices which varied according 
to the rank of the distinguished guest and his or her 
publicity value, and this was paid over to the hostess 
the day after the visit. 

Naturally all the women who made money in this 
way were of the highest social position, and although 
it was an open secret nobody ever commented on it. 
Very much the same thing went on in America, but 
there I found people even more frank about it, and 
theatrical and other celebrities seemed to take it quite 
as a matter of course that they should be “bought” 
at so much for a luncheon or dinner. 

When I first started in New York I rather shunned 
all this limelight, but it was pointed out to me that it 
was an absolute necessity if I intended to make a success 
of my business. As I have already stated, to be unad- 
vertised in New York is to be unknown, and I had to 
grow used to it. Once, I remember, my publicity 
manager arranged a dinner at the restaurant which 
was then the latest craze. I have forgotten its name 
now, and it has been closed for many years, for nothing 
is more fickle than the public taste in New York, and 
restaurants and night clubs spring up with mushroom 
growth only to fade out after a few short seasons. This 
particular restaurant made a feature of its decorations, 
which were in the form of a Grecian palace with 
stately pillars, and couches in place of the ordinary 
chairs. 

There was to be a special gala night, and it was 
decided that I should dine there with my beautiful 
mannequin# Gamela, who would wear a dress designed 
on Grecian lines. Gamela always looked like a creature 
out of the Old World, and in the flowing robe of white 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 139 

chiffon with its stencilled border and with her lovely 
black hair dressed in a loose knot she looked like some 
goddess stepped out of the pages of mythology* The 
third member of our party was Raymond Duncan, 
one of the most amazing people I have ever met* Like 
his sister, Isadora, who was one of my friends, he has 
been too lavishly endowed with what we generally 
describe, most inadequately, as “artistic temperament”, 
to be altogether happy. He cannot become reconciled 
to modern life any more than she could. 

His revolt against present-day conditions and par- 
ticularly against present-day clothes has led him to 
adopt a highly original form of dress, inspired by his 
studies of Ancient Greece. He is completely unself- 
conscious and this enables him to walk about the 
crowded Boulevards in Paris, or along Fifth Avenue 
in New York, dressed in a Grecian tunic, his bare feet 
thrust into sandals, and his long, black hair, streaked 
with grey, falling to his shoulders, bound with a gold 
filet. It says a great deal for the force of his personality 
that although the passers-by stare at him they never 
laugh. 

I only found him ridiculous once, and that was a 
few years ago when I saw him careering down the 
Champs-Elysees at the wheel of a very old and very 
dilapidated Ford. His long robes billowing out behind 
him and his hair flying in the wind created such an 
incongruous picture of Ancient Carthage allied to 
Modern Detroit that the spectacle was irresistibly 
funny. 

Once I had seen the New York branch firmly 
established with a flourishing clientele, and installed 
a competent staff of English and American workpeople, 
I went back to London, leaving it in the hands of my 
manager, Mr. Duggan, and Mr. Abraham Merritt, 
die former an Englishman, the latter an American. 
I should have liked to remain in the States longer. 



140 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

but there were the Courts coming on and I had a 
great many orders waiting for me. 

I did not return to New York until the following 
May, when I decided to pay a short visit there to see 
that everything was going on well* It was not* I 
had no sooner arrived than the bombshell burst* 
When I landed I was struck by what I can only describe 
as a sort of electricity in the atmosphere at the Customs* 
Nothing was said to me and the officials were perfectly 
polite, but I noticed that they examined my luggage 
with more than the usual attention, and afterwards 
they whispered among themselves, although I had 
nothing out of the ordinary to declare* .It was rather 
puzzling, and I wondered idly about it as I drove to 
the Ritz, where I had booked a suite ; however, I 
came to the conclusion that I must have imagined 
something that did not exist* I was soon to discover 
my mistake. 

The next morning Elsie de Wolfe came early to 
welcome me, and as I was just about to have breakfast 
I asked her to join me. While we were breakfasting 
the morning papers were brought to our table, and 
Elsie opened one and began scanning the headlines. 
Suddenly I saw her eyes fixed on one column, and she 
put down the paper hurriedly with some excuse that 
there was nothing fit to read in it. I had seen enough 
to make me suspicious, and in spite of her remon- 
strances I opened it. My own name stared me in 
the face, in big letters right across the front sheet. 

"Lady Duff Gordon, Chairman of Lucile's, noted 
dressmaking firm, concerned in alleged Customs Fraud" 
. . . there was a great deal more, which I was too 
upset to read. The main purport was that my managers 
lad been accused of falsifying the firm's invoices with 
intent to avoid die payment of full duty on the dresses 
and other garments imported from the London house. 

I ordered a car immediately and rushed round to 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 141 

the house in West Thirty-sixth Street* Here I found 
everything in chaos* several of the girls in tears* and 
women who had come for fittings gathered in little 
groups discussing the affair. I was told that just 
before I got there Customs officers had driven up in 
a van and impounded the greater part of the stock ; 
they had taken away ninety-four dresses* several 
crates of hats* underclothes* and other things* 

While I was trying to put a brave face on it* and 
restore confidence among the staff, a man arrived 
with the official intimation that a civil suit was being 
brought against me in the Federal Courts for the 
recovery of nearly fifty thousand dollars* as compen- 
sation for arrears of duty. One of the mannequins* 
an exceptionally pretty little American girl* managed 
to extract from him the further information that the 
Customs had been contemplating proceedings against 
my managers for some considerable time* but had 
delayed to take action until I, the head of the firm and 
the person legally responsible for its transgressions* 
arrived. 

Up to this time I had no knowledge of American 
law* and was not disposed to take my position so 
seriously as I might have done* I knew that I had 
been absolutely guiltless in the matter* I had merely 
sent off the models from London* and there my respon- 
sibility had ended ; it had never occurred to me that 
I was in any real danger* My friends soon enlightened 
me. They were all dreadfully worried on my behalf* 
and warned me that I might very easily find myself in 
gaol as a result of my managers' folly. Elsie de Wolfe 
insisted that I must have the very best lawyer in New 
York* so she engaged Bainbridge Colby to defend me. 
She told me that he had a splendid reputation for 
winning nearly every case he took on* and the force 
of his personality could sway any jury* even in the 
face of hard facts* 



142 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

The next day Mr. Colby came to see me in my 
hotel, and I realized that he was a very masterful 
person. From the moment that he took over the case 
he kept me virtually a prisoner. He would not let 
me go out, and forbade me to see anybody except my 
most intimate friends. This, he explained, was to 
prevent my being “got at” by the reporters. He was 
afraid that I might be convicted out of my own mouth, 
and make all sorts of injudicious statements which 
might prejudice my case. 

I told him that I had not the least intention of 
giving any newspaper interviews, which seemed to 
reassure him a little, but he explained that it would 
be so easy for me to be taken unawares and trapped 
into discussing my case with someone who was appar- 
ently a sympathetic listener, while in reality he or she 
would be a reporter who specialized in “Confessions”, 

Reporters on the cheap “yellow press”, he said, 
were usually in alliance with the police, and were 
often actually paid by them to secure evidence which 
would be inadmissible in England if obtained in such 
a way. By asking leading questions they would gener- 
ally be able to get the accused person to make some 
statement, which was capable of being twisted into an 
admission of guilt. In order to secure such a “con- 
fession”, he told me, reporters would not scruple to 
use any ruse, and would frequently take the part of 
the waiter or chambermaid, whose sympathy would 
invite confidence. So before he would take over my 
case he exacted a promise that I would obey him 
implicitly as to whom I saw ; he would not even let 
me answer the telephone until I had ascertained that 
the caller was a personal friend. 

“I am going to have the greatest difficulty in 
proving your innocence,” he said, “and I absolutely 
refuse to defend you unless you put yourself in my 
hands.” 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 143 

It was on his advice that I put in a plea admitting 
my liability as the head of Lucile's in the affair, 
although denying all knowledge of what had happened, 
and the means by which my managers had been 
evading dress duties. 

A few days later I was summoned to see the District 
Attorney. He put me through a very searching exam- 
ination and asked me all sorts of questions as to how 
my business was conducted. He had been distinctly 
hostile at the start of the interview, but before I left 
he became charming and told me that he believed in 
my innocence, and would do everything in his power 
to help me. I offered, through Mr. Colby, to settle 
part of the claim in order to keep the case out of court, 
but the officials of the Treasury Department opposed 
this on the grounds that nothing less than the full 
amount of nearly fifty thousand dollars would cover 
the loss of the Customs through the undervaluation 
practised by my managers. 

So there was nothing for it but to go before the 
Grand Jury. Mr. Colby was confident that I would 
come out of this ordeal with flying colours. 

“You are the most persuasive woman I have ever 
met,” he told me, “and if you have the courage to go 
before the Jury you will probably win your case.” 

I shall never forget the morning when my case was 
heard. It was raining, a fine, steady drizzle, and as 
we drove to the Court I felt horribly depressed. The 
streets looked so unfamiliar and unfriendly and I had 
such a longing suddenly to be back in London. I 
pictured the house in Hanover Square, with the long 
linjes of cars in front of it, and the showrooms filled 
with women choosing gowns for Ascot. It seemed so 
far away. 

Then I realized that everything depended on my 
re m ai n ing calm and keeping my temper, ami I walked 
into the gloomy room with my head held high, and 



144 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

wearing one of my prettiest dresses, which Elsie de 
Wolfe had made me put on, “because it was lovely 
enough to impress even a hard-hearted old jury”. 

I had laughed at her when she said this, for it seemed 
absurd to imagine that the “twelve good men and 
true” would take an accused person's dress into 
account, but she was nearer the mark than I could have 
guessed. I had forgotten I was in New York. 

I had expected to find the court crowded, for the 
case had aroused a great deal of interest, and I was 
considerably relieved to find nobody in the room 
except the members of the Jury and the District 
Attorney. I was given a seat right at one end of the 
room, where I sat facing them all. 

They went through the evidence, and I could feel 
them growing more hostile every moment. One of 
them, a great, broad-shouldered man with a shock of 
fiery red hair, shook his fist at me. 

“Do you think we are going to believe this nonsense 
of the managers being in the wrong?” he shouted. 
“The owner of the shop is the one who is at the back 
of this case. You are not going to get off through 
putting the blame on somebody else.” 

I thought it was time to appeal to chivalry, so 
taking up my chair I walked down to the jurors' table 
and seated myself at it, right in the midst of the 
enemies' camp as it were. 

“I cannot hear what you are saying,” I said, looking 
as forlorn and pathetic as I possibly could. 

They made room for me without a word. That 
turned the tide in my favour, for they were so surprised 
at my courage, and so amused at my ignorance of 
judicial formalities, that they listened favourably to my 
defence. 

I was ordered to pay ten thousand dollars, quite 
enough for a piece of stupidity, in which I had taken 
no part, but certainly less than Mr. Colby had expected 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


145 


on a claim of nearly five times that amount. When 
we discussed it together afterwards he told me that it 
was undoubtedly due to the favourable impression I 
had made on the Jury. 

After I had been in America for some time I grew 
to understand this little incident, and why my little 
gesture had changed the attitude of the Jury. Most 
of us always associate chivalry with the old world, yet 
in reality it belongs far more to the new. America is 
infinitely more chivalrous in its dealings with women 
than Europe, and it is difficult to over-estimate the 
effect this has on one's daily life in the States. It is 
typical of America that it should have coined the 
phrase “sex appeal”, for no country in the world is 
so swayed by it. The American girl with her inde- 
pendence, her love of a good time, her well-paid job, 
is secure in her position because, behind her stands the 
American man, whose pleasure it is to give her all 
these things. She is used to it from babyhood, she 
is petted by her father, whom she twists round her 
little finger, just as she is petted later by her adoring 
husband, who slaves to buy her pretty clothes, and 
give her holidays whether he ought to afford them or 
not. 

If she goes to work she finds the same key-note of 
sex appeal in whatever job she takes. The head of 
any firm would not dream of exacting the same high 
standard from his girl secretaries as he would from 
men. I do not for a moment suggest that he would 
not get it, for the American girl is efficient to the last 
degree, but if he did not he would be much milder 
in his judgment than he would be to a male clerk. 
The same sort of thing extends to all classes. Any 
woman who has driven a car in New York knows the 
value of a sweet smile turned in the direction of a 
traffic policeman ; it will get her through far better 
than the most convincing argument. 


K 



146 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

The American man is, I think, much more sus- 
ceptible to sex than the Englishman, which is probably 
the reason for the fact that American women are 
spoilt, and, as a whole, very selfish, I have known 
hundreds of them intimately, and there are, of course, 
many exceptions, but I discovered that the majority 
of wives who used to come to me for their clothes 
regarded their husbands simply as someone who paid 
the bills. They never thought of studying their com- 
fort, or of consulting their wishes, and took every 
attention for granted. The other side of the picture 
is that American men having made this state of things 
obviously like it and see nothing strange in it. They 
have placed Woman on her throne, and are quite 
content to worship at her feet. 

After the end of my case I returned to London, 
where I had a great deal to do in preparation for the 
opening of the new Paris branch of Lucile's. I did 
not have time to make another trip to the States until 
the following year, when business took me over in a 
great hurry. 

I booked a passage on the first available boat. 

The boat was the Titanic . 





CHAPTER THIRTEEN 

A GREAT liner stealing through the vast loneliness 
of the Atlantic, the sky jewelled with myriads 
of stars overhead, and a thin little wind blowing cold 
and ever colder straight from the frozen ice fields, 
tapping its warning of approaching danger on the 
cosily shuttered portholes of the cabins, causing the 
look-out man to strain his eyes anxiously into the 
gloom. Inside this floating palace warmth, lights and 
music, the flutter of cards, the hum of voices, the gay 
lilt of a German valse — the unheeding sounds of a 
small world bent on pleasure. Then disaster, swift 
and overwhelming, turning all into darkness and 
chaos, the laughing voices changed into shuddering 
wails of despair — a story of horror unparalleled in the 
annals of the sea. 

This description of how I got on the Titanic and 
our subsequent rescue was Written in New York, three 
days after we landed from the Carpathian I wrote 
it while all the facts were vividly on my mind. I 
thought it wise to do so, and so it has proved very 
Useful. I have the original document now. 

It is only now, after so long, that I can bring myself 
to look back to that terrible last night on board the 
doomed Titanic . For many years the horror of it all 
was too fresh and vivid to bear the searchlight of 
memory. It was as if some part of my brain had been 
numbed with the shock. I had only to dose my eyes 
to see the rows of lighted portholes of the great ship 
extinguished slowly row by row, until they sank com- 
pletely under the black waters, to hear in my ears the 
hideous clamour that arose, ringing out over the quiet 

U7 



148 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

sea* I remember thinking at the time, fantastically 
enough, how remote and indifferent the stars seemed. 
I looked up at them a few minutes later with tear-filled 
eyes, when all was still again, and thought how many 
scenes of human agony they must have witnessed, and 
it came to me then that the life and death of Man were 
very unimportant things. 

I had not meant to sail on the Titanic , although 
urgent business in New York forced me to take the 
first available boat. To this day I cannot explain the 
curious reluctance I had when the booking-clerk at 
the White Star offices said : 

“ The only berths we have for the next three weeks 
are on our new liner, the Titanic , which will be making 
her maiden voyage in a day or two.” 

“Oh, I should not care to cross on a new ship,” I 
told him. “I should be nervous/' 

He laughed at the idea of it. 

“Of all things, I should imagine you could not 
possibly feel nervous on the Titanic ,” he answered. 
“Why the boat is absolutely unsinkable. Her water- 
tight compartments would enable her to weather the 
fiercest sea ever known, and she is the last word in 
comfort and luxury. This first voyage is going to 
make history in ocean travel.” 

It was, but not in the way he expected. 

In spite of his arguments I refused to book my 
berth there and then and went home and told my 
husband of my fears. He laughed at me, but when 
he realized that I was really in earnest he offered to 
come with me rather than let me go on the voyage 
alone. I consented willingly, little knowing that by 
so doing I was to expose him to a storm of censure 
and ridicule, that wellnigh broke his heart and ruined 
his life. 

The first days of the crossing were uneventful. 
Like everyone else I was entranced with the beauty 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 149 

of the liner. I had never dreamt of travelling in such 
luxury. I remember being childishly pleased on find- 
ing strawberries on my breakfast-table. 

“Fancy strawberries in April, and in mid-ocean. 
The whole thing is positively uncanny/' I kept saying 
to my husband. “Why you would think you were 
at the Ritz.” 

My pretty little cabin, with its electric heater and 
pink curtains, delighted me, so that it was a pleasure 
to go to bed. Everything aboard this lovely ship 
reassured me from the captain, with his kindly, 
bearded face and genial manner, and his twenty-five 
years of experience as a White Star commander, to 
my merry, Irish stewardess, with her soft brogue and 
tales of the timid ladies she had attended during 
hundreds of Atlantic crossings. And yet, in spite of 
ridicule nothing could persuade me to completely 
undress at night, and my warm coat and wrap lay 
always ready at hand, and my little jewel case, with a 
few of my most treasured possessions, was placed on 
a convenient table within my reach. I have never 
been a psychic woman, and in all my life have never 
been to a seance or dabbled in the occult, so I am even 
now loath to call this feeling of acute fear which I 
experienced a premonition, yet the fact remains that 
though I have crossed the Atlantic many times both 
before and since I have never had it on any other occa- 
sion. Something warned me, some deep instinct, 
that all was not well. 

The time passed happily enough. I had my 
secretary. Miss Francatelli, with me, as well as my 
husband, and we both found several friends on board. 
Mr. and Mrs. Thayer, the former was President of 
the Pennsylvania Railway, were among them. 

The day of the disaster dawned calm and bright, 
the sea was exceptionally still, but as the day wore on 
the cold increased. The wind was the coldest I ever 



150 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

felt, but it died down towards night. As we walked 
round the deck I shivered in my warmest furs. 

"I have never felt so cold/' I said to Cosmo, 
“Surely there must be icebergs around." 

He made fun of my ignorance, and Captain Smith, 
who happened to be passing, assured me that we were 
right away from the ice sone. 

Miss Francatelli, my secretary, and I went into my 
cabin and shut up all the portholes and lit the electric 
stove to try to get warm, but it was no use, and when 
we all three went down to the restaurant we kept on 
our thick clothes instead of dressing for dinner. 

I remember that last meal on the Titanic very well. 
We had a big vase of beautiful daffodils on the table, 
which were as fresh as if they had just been picked. 
Everybody was very gay, and at neighbouring tables 
people were making bets on the probable time of this 
record-breaking run. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the 
White Star Line, was dining with the ship's doctor 
next to our table, and I remember that several men 
appealed to him as to how much longer we should be 
at sea. Various opinions were put forward, but none 
dreamed that the Titanic would make her harbour 
that night. Mr. Ismay was most confident, and 
said that undoubtedly the ship would establish a 
record. 

Further along the room the Wideners and the 
Thayers (American multi-millionaires both of them) 
were dining with the Captain and others, and there 
■was a great deal of laughter and chatter from their 
table. It was the last time I saw them. At another 
table sat Colonel Jacob Astor and his young bride. 
They were coining back to New York after a honey- 
moon in Europe, and I thought how much in lbve 
they were — poor things, it was the last few hours they 
were to have together. They Were joined by Isador 
Strauss, the multi-millionaire and Ins wife. These 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 151 

two so openly adored one another that we used to call 
them “Darby and Joan” on the ship. They told us 
laughingly that in their long years of married life they 
had never been separated for one day or night. Their 
bodies were found hours afterwards clasped in one 
another's arms, after Mrs. Strauss had hidden from the 
officers, who were trying to force her into one of the 
boats. 

After dinner we went down into the lounge, where 
we met Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Meyer. I had my little 
autograph book with me, and got them to write in it. 
It was one of the “Confession” books, which were so 
popular just then. Mr. Meyer filled in his “likes”, 
“abominations”, etc., and then came to the column 
marked “madnesses”. He laughed as he said : “I 
have only one — to live”, and wrote it down. In less 
than two hours after he was drowned. 

We went up to our cabins on A deck. Cosmo 
went to bed early. Miss Francatelli and I sat chatting 
by the stove before we undressed. 

I had been in bed I suppose for about an hour, 
and the lights were all out, when I was awakened by a 
funny rumbling noise. It was like nothing I had ever 
heard before. It seemed almost as if some giant hand 
had been playing bowls, rolling the great balls along. 
Then the boat stopped, and immediately there was 
the frightful noise of escaping steam, and I heard 
people running along the deck outside my cabin, but 
they were laughing and gay. 

“We must have hit an iceberg,” I heard them say. 
“There is ice on the deck.” 

I went across the passage to my husband's cabin. 
He had heard nothing and was very annoyed at my 
waking him up. 

“Don't be so ridiculous,” he said. “Eve®, if we 
have grazed an iceberg it can't do any serious damage 
with all these water-tight compartments. The worst 



152 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

that can happen is that it will slow us down* Go 
back to bed and don't worry*" 

However I went and looked over the side of the 
boat. I could see nothing and it was pitch black. 
Several people hurried up on deck, but on hearing 
from the ship's officers that it was “nothing but 
temporary trouble" they went quietly back to bed. 
I think to this day that if it had not been for this ill- 
advised reticence hundreds more lives would have 
been saved. As it was the appalling danger we were 
in was concealed from us all until it was too late and 
in the ensuing panic many of the boats were lowered 
half-filled because there was no time to fill them. 

I went back to my cabin. Everything outside 
appeared as usual, but I was uneasy and the roar of 
the steam still continued to alarm me. Presently it 
stopped and there came an infinitely more frightening 
silence. The engines had stopped. Something in 
the cessation of this busy, homely sound filled me 
with panic. I rushed back to Cosmo. 

“I beg you to go up on deck and see what has 
happened," I cried, shaking him. 

He got out of his warm bed rather unwillingly. In 
ten minutes he was back looking rather grave. 

“I have just been up on the bridge and seen Colonel 
Astor," he said. “He told me that he was going to 
ask his wife to dress, and I think that you had better 
do the same." 

I hurriedly put on the warmest clothes I could find, 
covering them with a thick coat. As I was dressing. 
Miss Francatelli came into the room, very agitated. 

“There is water in my cabin and they are taking 
the covers off the lifeboats on deck." 

Just as she finished speaking a steward knocked 
at the door. 

“Sorry to alarm you. Madam, but the Captain's 
orders are that ah passengers are to put on lifebelts." 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 153 

He laughed and joked as he helped us to don 
them, 

"Wrap up warmly, for you may have a little 
trip for an hour or so in one of the lifeboats,” he 
said. 

We followed him out of the cabin. Before the door 
closed I looked round it for the last time. I shall never 
forget that glimpse of the lovely, little room, with its 
beautiful lace quilt, and pink cushions and photographs 
all round, and with a big basket of lillies of the valley 
that my "Lucile” girls had given me when I left Paris, 
on the table. It all looked so homely and pretty, just 
like a bedroom on land, that it did not seem possible 
there could be any danger. But as if to give this 
reassuring thought the lie at that moment a vase of 
flowers on the washstand slid off suddenly and fell 
with a crash on the floor. 

We looked at one another. 

On the port side there was a scene of indescribable 
horror. Boat after boat was being lowered in a pande- 
monium of rushing figures fighting for places, tearing 
at each other, trampling women and children under 
foot. The Lascars from below deck had run amok and. 
were battling like devils round the remaining boats 
Over the confusion the voices of the ship's officers 
roared. 

"Women and children first. Stand back,” and I 
heard the sharp bark of a revolver. 

My legs shook so that I could hardly stand, and 
if it had not been for my husband's arm I should have 
fallen. 

"Come, dear,” he said, "I must get you to the 
boats.” 

I clung to him with all my strength, and although 
I could scarcely get out the words, I insisted that 
nothing on earth would make me leave him. He saw 
that I meant it, and besides the crowd round the boats 



154 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

on that deck was so thick that it was useless to try to 
approach them* 

While we stood there people rushed by us in a 
headlong dash to get anywhere away from the hell of 
that struggling, yelling mob, and there were heart- 
rending shrieks as one boat, too hurriedly launched, 
upset and its occupants were shot out into the black 
depths of water below. 

“We will go round to the starboard side,” Cosmo 
said. “It may be better there. It can't possibly be 
worse.” 

It was better, for although there were crowds there 
was no confusion. The boats were being quietly filled 
with women, while a number of ship's officers and 
male passengers helped to launch them. Even in that 
terrible moment I was filled with wonder at nearly 
all the American wives who were leaving their husbands 
without a word of protest or regret, scarce of farewell. 
They have brought the cult of chivalry to such a pitch 
in the States that it comes as second nature to their 
men to sacrifice themselves and to their women to let 
them do it. But I had no such ideas about my husband, 
and when two officers came up and tried to force me 
into one of the boats I refused. Cosmo pleaded with 
me while three or four boats were launched and the 
crowds round the side thinned. But I only said : 

“Promise me that whatever you do you will not 
let them separate us,” and clung to him until at last 
seeing it was no use resisting me he gave in, and we 
stood waiting there with Miss Francatelli, who refused 
to leave us. 

Suddenly we saw that everyone in the vicinity had 
disappeared, except for some sailors who were launch- 
ing a little, boat. We found out afterwards that it was 
not a lifeboat, but the Captain's emergency boat. The 
men who were to man it were all stokers, with the 
exception of one seaman, whom an officer placed, in 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 155 

charge of it* Seeing nobody else about my husband 
asked the officer whether we might get into it, and on 
receiving his permission we were helped in, followed 
by two American men, who came up at the last moment* 
I shall never forget how black and deep the water 
looked below us, and how I hated leaving the big, 
homely ship for this frail little boat. Just beside us 
was a man sending off rockets, and the ear-splitting 
noise added to the horror of being suspended in mid- 
air while one of the lowering ropes got caught and 
was only released after what seemed an interminable 
time. 

The officer called out his last instructions to our 
crew. 

“Pull off away from the boat as quickly as possible, 
at least two hundred yards/' 

Just as we touched the water I looked back. I 
could see the man sending off rockets. 

We rowed away out into the darkness. 

I have often noticed that on the heels of tragedy 
comes an absurd anticlimax. In my case it was deadly 
sea-sickness, which was nothing less than torture. 
To try to keep my mind off my physical sufferings I 
fixed my eyes on the ship. I could see her dark hull 
towering like a giant hotel, with light streaming from 
every cabin porthole. As I looked, one row of these 
shining windows was suddenly extinguished. I guessed 
the reason and turned shudderingly away. When I 
forced myself to look again, yet another row had dis- 
appeared. After what seemed long hours of misery 
a sharp exclamation from my husband aroused me from 
the stupor into which I was sinking. 

“My God ! She is going now 1" he cried. 

I turned and saw the few remaining lights of the 
Titanic shining with steady brilliance, but only for a 
moment, and then they were gone. A dull explosion 
shook the air. From the doomed vessel there arose an 



156 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

indescribable clamour* I think that it was only at that 
moment that many of those poor souls on board 
realised their fate. A louder explosion followed and 
the stem of the great ship shot upwards out of the 
water. For a few seconds she stayed motionless while 
the agonised cries from her decks grew in intensity 
and then, with one awful downward rush she plunged 
to her grave through fathoms of water, and the air was 
rent with those awful shrieks. Then silence, which 
I felt I could not bear ; I felt my very reason totter- 
ing. Cosmo did his best to comfort me, but I lapsed 
into a sort of unconsciousness, from which I was 
aroused by a dreadful paroxysm of sea-sickness, which 
persisted at intervals through the rest of the night. 

Between bouts of my horrible sickness I could see 
the dark shadows of icebergs surrounding us. 



CHAPTER FOURTEEN 


M ERCIFULLY there is a limit to the human 
capacity for suffering. In moments of great 
shock and sorrow we can only feel so far and then no 
farther, for the brain seems to become almost para- 
lysed and in place of consecutive thought turns over a 
medley of trivialities. If it were not so we should find 
life utterly unendurable. 

On that night of horror when we rowed away from 
the place where we had seen the vast bulk of the 
Titanic sink slowly beneath the sea as though some 
relentless giant hand had drawn her under, we scarcely 
spoke to one another. Our ears were too full of those 
terrible cries of despair from the poor souls she had 
carried down with her for us to want to break the 
silence which succeeded them. There was only the 
plash of the oars as the men rowed harder than ever, 
seeking perhaps to get away from their thoughts, and 
now and then a muttered sentence as they strained 
their eyes into the gloom ahead looking for some sign 
of the other boats. 

But I noticed these things in a hazy, detached sort 
of way, for I had gone through too much in those two 
short hours since I left my cabin to think clearly, and 
to add to it I was enduring agonies from sea-sickness. 
Now anyone who has ever suffered from this unromantic 
and very distressing complaint will agree that there are 
very few things more calculated to destroy one's morale 
and unfit one for mental effort. While some hundreds 
of yards away from me men and women were going 
to their death beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic 
and one of the most appalling tragedies of a lifetime 



158 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

was being enacted, I lay stretched out along the side 
of the boat scarcely conscious of anything but my 
physical sufferings. Had I been pitched into the sea 
myself I should not have made the least resistance; 
in fact death would have been almost in the nature of 
a relief. 

Once or twice during the night I revived a little, 
and tried to talk to reassure Cosmo, who was very 
worried on my account, for, as he told me afterwards, 
I appeared so ill that he feared I might die of exposure 
before we were rescued. The others followed my 
example, and when the men rested on their oars for 
a few minutes we chatted of little unimportant things, 
as people do when they have been through a great 
mental strain. With one accord we avoided the tragic 
side of the wreck, for we could not trust ourselves to 
speak of it, but we tried to make feeble jokes about 
our present plight. I remember that I teased Miss 
Francatelli about the weird assortment of clothes the 
poor girl had flung on before leaving the ship, for she 
was generally very fussy over her clothes. 

“Just fancy, you actually left your beautiful night- 
dress behind you l” I said, and we all laughed as though 
I had ■said something very witty, though in our hearts 
we felt very far from laughter. 

“Never mind, madam, you were lucky to come away 
with your lives," said one of the sailors. “Don't you 
bother about anything you had to leave behind you." 

Another voice took up the tale. 

“You people need not bother about losing your 
things, for you can afford to buy new ones when you 
get ashore. What about us poor fellows? We have 
lost all our kit, and our pay stops from the moment 
the ship went down." 

For the first time Cosmo came into the' conversation. 

“Yes, that’s hard luck if you like," he said. “But 
don’t worry, you will get another ship. At any rate 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 159 

I will give you a fiver each towards getting a new 
kit.” 

It was said with his characteristic impulsiveness, 
and I don't think anybody thought much of it at the 
time, but I remember every word of that conversation, 
for it had a tremendous bearing on our future. I little 
thought then that because of those few words we 
should be disgraced and branded as cowards in every 
comer of the civilised world. 

The awful night wore on while we sat huddled 
together in the boat, nearly dying of cold. I heard 
Cosmo, who was sitting behind me, rubbing his hands 
together to keep them from freezing, and every now 
and then when the men stopped rowing Miss Fran- 
catelli would take their poor numbed hands in her lap 
and mb them with all her might to try and get a little 
warmth into them. Soon she, too, was overcome with 
the cold and lay down in the bottom of the boat. We 
had nothing to eat, but Cosmo found a few cigars in 
his pocket and broke them in half and shared them with 
the men. They had only two matches among them, 
but somehow they managed to light them, and the 
smoke was reassuring. 

Towards morning the light wind which had died 
down overnight rose again and the sea began to get 
very rough ; as the first faint streaks of dawn broke, 
we saw rows of “white horses” racing towards us, 
beautiful but very alarming, for our frail little boat 
could never have lived long in a rough sea. 

Fortunately we saw something else, or rather I 
did, for the others refused to believe me at first, when 
I told them that I could see two lights far away on the 
horizon, too big and too steady to be stars. They 
insisted that it was only my im a gination, since nobody 
else in the, boat could see anything although they all 
strained their eyes into the distance. But the lights 
grew gradually bigger until they resolved themselves 



l6o DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

into the outline of an approaching steamer, the 
Carpathian 

By this time it was daylight and the sun was rising, 
I shall never forget the beauty of that dawn stealing 
over the cold Atlantic, stretching crimson fingers 
across the grey of the sky, lighting up the icebergs till 
they looked giant opals, as we threaded our way past 
them. The men were rowing now for all they were 
worth, and one of them began to sing. We were all 
nearly hysterical with the reaction from our miseries 
of the night, and as we saw other boats rowing along- 
side of us we imagined that most of our fellow passen- 
gers on the Titanic had been saved like us ; not one of 
us even guessed the appalling truth. As we drew up 
beside the Carpathia the wreck and the dreadful 
experiences we had gone through seemed to have 
passed away like a nightmare. 

Miss Francatelli and I were so numb with cold 
that we could not possibly climb the rope ladder which 
they let down from the ship, and they had some 
difficulty in getting us up on deck, but it was managed 
at last, and oh ! the joy of setting foot on the ship. We 
clung to each other like children too exhausted to speak, 
only realizing the blessed fact that we were saved. 

I can never be grateful enough for the kindness 
which was shown to us on the Carpathia ; from Captain 
Rostron and Mr. Brown, the Purser, downwards, crew 
and passengers vied with one another in their atten- 
tions to us and to all the other survivors. Everything 
that could possibly be done for our comfort had been 
thought of ; preparations had gone on all night since 
first the ship's wireless picked up the Titanic* s message 
of distress, bakers had been baking bread to feed three 
thousand, blankets had been heated and passengers 
had doubled up with strangers anywhere and every- 
where to offer their cabins to the survivors. 

The moment I stepped on deck a motherly steward- 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS l6l 

ess rushed up and flung a warm rug round my shoulders, 
while another took charge of Miss Francatelli, and we 
were taken below where we were given brandy and 
steaming hot coffee and offered changes of clothing* 

Cosmo and the two Americans, whose names we 
found out were Mr. Stengel and Mr. Salaman, were 
delivered into the care of a steward, who prepared hot 
baths for them and served them with breakfast. 

I felt too ill to eat anything, and after being given 
a sedative I was put to bed in a beautiful cabin, which 
two passengers gave over for Cosmo and myself. 
There I lay for hours in a sort of stupor, too exhausted 
to rouse myself. 

I did not wake until the following morning, when 
the sun was streaming in through the portholes, and 
for the moment I completely forgot the events of the 
last forty-eight hours, and was only surprised at the 
unfamiliarity of the cabin. Then a stewardess came 
in with some tea, and on seeing her instead of my 
Irish stewardess of the Titanic , suddenly everything 
swept over me in a tide of remembrance. I saw the 
Titanic as I had last seen her, plunging to her grave 
under the Atlantic, I heard again those heart-rending 
cries from her decks, and burying my face in the 
pillows I sobbed uncontrollably. It was the first time 
that the full realization of the disaster came to me. 

Later in the morning a kind American woman, 
who was in the next cabin, came in and helped me to 
dress and we went on deck together. Here we found 
numbers of survivors, rescued like ourselves, grouped 
about the ship, discussing the tragedy. Each of them 
had some new story of horror to tell, many were nearly 
distraught with anxiety over the fate of husbands or 
sons who had been left on the ship, and of whom they 
could get no tidings. 

One of the women I talked to was Mrs. Turrell 
Cavendish, the daughter of Mr. Henry Siegel. She 



1 63 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


was heartbroken over the loss of her husband, who had 
put her into one of the first boats to leave the wreck, 
and had then gone back to save other women and 
children* The boat in which she had escaped had 
carried twenty-four women and only two sailors to 
row them. One of these men was so overcome by the 
cold that he had collapsed in the bottom of the boat, 
and the women had taken their turns at the oars, and 
somehow or other managed to get the boat alongside 
the Carpathian Several of them had been almost 
frozen during the night, for they were only half dressed 
and without shoes or stockings. 

Another woman told me that one of the sailors in 
her boat collapsed over his oar. She was sitting quite 
close to him and had tried to restore him until she 
realized that he was dead. So she had propped him 
against her knee, and had sat like that all the remainder 
of the night, so that the other women in the boat 
should not be alarmed. A lovely little boy of two 
years old, the child of very rich American parents, 
had been brought away by his nurse, who was nearly 
distracted with grief. The child’s mother had refused 
to leave her husband, and both had gone down with 
the ship. In another cabin were a mother and her 
three daughters, hoping against hope for news of the 
father and two brothers, who had packed them into 
one of the boats and waved “good-bye” as they stood 
on the decks to wait for death together. 

One of the saddest figures was an elderly woman 
shabbily dressed with a shawl over her head, who had 
been landed from one of the boats and dumped down 
on the first-class deck. She ran hither and thither 
peering over the sides, ringing her hands and talking 
and moaning to herself in a language none of us could 
understand. We tried to speak to her in English, 
French, German and Italian, but she only shook h?r 
head. In the end Captain Rostron saw her and . sent 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 163 

for somebody from the third class who could talk 
Russian, for he had guessed her nationality; A man 
and woman came and her joy at finding somebody who 
understood her was pathetic, although they had little 
enough comfort to give her, and could only listen to 
her sad story. She was the only one left of an entire 
family, which had been emigrating to the States. Her 
husband, her four children and her brother and his 
wife and family had all gone down in the Titanic . 

All that day and for the remainder of the voyage 
until we arrived in New York the Carpathia was a ship 
of sorrow as nearly all were grieving over the loss of 
somebody. 

There were one or two little comedies which came 
as a welcome relief. One of them was the escape of 
the Titanic* s baker, who had been extraordinarily 
lucky. After the iceberg struck the ship he had gone 
to his cabin and drunk half a bottle of brandy “to 
steady his nerves”. As he set the bottle down the 
ship gave a dreadful lurch, though he attributed his 
loss of equilibrium to the effects of the brandy at the 
time. Then hearing the sound of scurrying feet as 
the crew rushed up on deck, he decided to follow them. 
At the door of his cabin he looked back, and the half- 
finished bottle of brandy caught his eye. It was a 
pity to waste it on the sea, he thought, so to prevent 
this happening he drank it himself. When he event- 
ually arrived on deck he was in an optimistic mood and 
indifferent as to his probable plight, which was fortu- 
nate for him as just then the ship settled down at her 
bows and he, with many hundreds of others, was 
flung into the icy water. He was not in a state to 
offer much resistance, and contented himself with 
swimming mechanically about and keeping himself 
afloat rather from a subconscious sense of self- 
preservation than from any consistent effort. 

While he . was doing this he came upon a raft. 



164 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

which had been rigged by others of a more energetic 
frame of mind, and as there was one vacant place he 
was allowed to climb up on it* By that time he had 
been in the water for over an hour and was nearly 
frozen, but after being taken aboard the Carpathia he 
recovered. The doctors who attended him said that 
without any doubt that whole botde of brandy had 
saved his life, for without it he could never have with- 
stood the intense cold of the sea so long. This was 
one of the very few comedies I ever heard of the loss 
of the Titanic , although I fear it is a story of which 
temperance advocates will not approve. 

On our second day on the Carpathia Cosmo and I 
were discussing our terrible night in the boat when 
he said suddenly : 

“Oh, by the way, I must not forget that I promised 
those poor fellows a fiver each towards getting a new 
kit if ever we were saved. I shall write them cheques 
and give them to them to-morrow.” 

“Yes, indeed they deserve it for the way they kept 
their courage up,” X answered. “I am going to ask 
them aU to write their names on my lifebelt before we 
get ashore, for I should like to keep it in memory of 
our wonderful escape.” 

So Cosmo sent for Hendrickson, the fireman to 
whom he had first promised the money “to go towards 
a new kit” in the boat that night, and asked him to 
let him have a list of the men who had manned the 
boat, and later he came back to me with it. 

“Just imagine, there was only one seaman, Symons, 
who was in charge of the boat, among them,” he said 
to me as we looked at the list. “All the rest were 
firemen.” 

He sent for Miss Francatelli, and, as he had no 
cheque book with him, she wrote out cheques on half- 
sheets of notepaper which Cosmo signed. The purser, 
Mr, Brown, supplied stamps. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 165 

Then Cosmo sent for the men and they came up 
on the promenade deck, where an informal little 
presentation took place* All the passengers who were 
there cheered as the men came forward rather sheep- 
ishly to receive the envelopes containing the cheques, 
and the ship's doctor, who was interested in photo- 
graphy, took a picture of them all* Then they came to 
say "good-bye” to me and wrote their names on my 
lifebelt * * * "Symonds, Hendrickson, Taylor, Collins, 
Pusey, Sheath and Horswill.” 

I have kept it ever since* 

As we went back to our cabin I said to Cosmo : 

"You know I think some of the other survivors 
might have done the same thing for the men in their 
boats, and raised a collection among themselves. Of 
course one could not expect the third class passengers 
to do it, but the first and second class could well afford 
it, and it would have been only a very little thing to do 
for these men who have lost far more by being ship- 
wrecked than we have.” 

Cosmo agreed with me. "At all events I don't 
regret having done it,” he said. "Probably the others 
did not think of it.” 

Neither of us could have guessed that that simple 
litde act of kindness was forging a powerful link in the 
chain of evidence which was to be used with such 
deadly force against us. 

I shall never forget the night of our arrival in New 
York, nor, I think, will anyone else who was aboard 
the Carpathia and witnessed the harrowing scenes at 
the Cunard Line pier, where ten thousand men and 
women had waited for over two hours in a drizzling 
rain for news of friends and relatives who had been 
passengers on the Titanic . Before the ship anchored 
we caught glimpses of white anxious faces and desperate 
eyes scanning our decks, as the vast crowd waited 
silently. Woman wrapped in costly furs and million- 



i66 


DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


aires who had driven up in luxurious cars stood 
shoulder to shoulder with men and women from the 
slums, allied in a common sorrow, hoping the same 
forlorn hope that perhaps there had been some mistake 
after all, that perhaps the wireless's list of survivors' 
names had been incomplete. Most of the women 
were crying and the men stared straight ahead with 
set, white faces. 

In one little group I recognized Elsie de Wolfe, 
Miss Marbury, Bainbridge Colby and Mr. Merritt, 
the editor of the Sunday American . A few minutes 
later we were down the gangway and they were alter- 
nately laughing and crying over us. Only then did I 
begin to realize the agony of mind they had been in 
while they waited for us for two hours. They had only' 
been told we were among the survivors and had had 
no confirmation of the news to depend on, and all 
those who were waiting for friends had been in terrible 
suspense when it became known that many of the 
people who had been rescued had died aboard the 
Carpathian Nobody had dared to do more than hope 
for the best until they had actually seen the passengers 
disembarked. 

We drove to the Ritz, where we found a suite of 
rooms had been prepared for us. Elsie had filled them 
with flowers, and there were new clothes laid out for 
us. At dinner that night we were all very gay, and 
drank champagne. Every few minutes the telephone 
would ring, and I was kept busy answering the messages 
of congratulation, while flowers and other presents 
were showered upon us. But I could not be quite happy 
even in the warmth of our welcome, for I kept remem- 
bering those other men and women who had sat at 
dinner that last night on board the Titanic . It all 
seemed so long ago. I could scarcely believe that only 
fourdays had passed. 

It was to escape from my thoughts that I flung 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 167 

myself with renewed energy into my work. I shut 
myself up in my studio and spent the whole day there, 
refusing to see anyone. 

But I was not to be left in peace. About three days 
after our arrival in New York the first thunder-clouds 
of the storm which was to break over our heads later 
gathered up. 

The most extraordinary reports began to be circu- 
lated about the wreck of the Titanic , and as these passed 
from one to another they were magnified into fantastic 
stories without a shred of truth. The horror and grief 
which had shaken the whole American nation resolved 
itself into a sort of hysteria. Everyone looked for a 
victim to blame for the tragedy, and class hatred ran 
high. The wildest rumours as to “the scandalous 
conduct” of the “millionaires” who had been passen- 
gers on the ship were put about, and these were 
sedulously fanned by the agitators. The names of 
men who had been drowned were heaped with the 
vilest abuse, they were proclaimed far and wide as 
cowards, and in some cases their relatives were booed 
and shouted at in the streets. Nobody knew exactly 
how these rumours started but they gained currency 
none the less. 

It was said that Colonel Astor and George Widener 
had been shot aboard the Titanic while fighting with 
women to get into the lifeboats ; that a boatful of women 
had been turned out to make room for the pet dogs 
and luggage of Mrs. Astor ; that any steerage passen- 
gers who had been saved had forced themselves on 
deck as Captain Smith and his officers had given orders 
that only first and second class passengers were to be 
allowed to get into the boats ; that the hatches had 
been fastened down on the third class compartments. 
It was said that Captain Smith had been attending a 
noisy dinner party on the night of the accident and that 
he was so drunk that he was unable to take any part 



168 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

in the control of the ship ; that the first officer had shot 
himself on the bridge ; and that practically every man 
among the first class passengers had tried to stampede 
for the boats, trampling women and children under 
foot. 

I need not say how false these rumours were. 
Everybody knows now that Colonel Astor and George 
Widener died as did the rest of the men who went 
down with the ship, like brave men, having helped to 
load the boats with women and children ; the memory 
of Captain Smith has been too abundantly established 
as a sailor and a gentleman to need any comment from 
me, and it is known that the proportion of third class 
passengers saved was actually higher than the pro- 
portion of first class. 

The majority of the rumours were directed against 
Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star 
Line. It was stated that he was directly responsible 
for the accident, since he had caused the Titanic to 
deviate from her proper course. His picture was 
published all over the States with the caption that 
this was the man “who so managed and directed the 
line that the Titanic disregarded all warnings, neg- 
lected all precautions, drove headlong into a known 
and definitely located sea of ice, killing thirteen 
hundred heroic men, while he, himself a coward, 
escaped in the lifeboats with the women and chil- 
dren, leaving some helpless woman in his place, to 
drown.” 

Of course we heard all these reports — it was difficult 
not to, for the papers were full of them — but we never 
connected them in any way with ourselves. 

Then one morning we received a newspaper cutting 
which was sent by a friend, who felt that we ought to 
defend ourselves from the terrible accusations which 
were being made against us and of which we had so 
far heard nothing. It was the account of an interview 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS l6g 

which a certain Robert Hopkins, a seaman of the 
Titanic , had given to the Press* It had already 
appeared in several papers, we were told* 

This man, Robert Hopkins, had stated that he 
could throw some light on the mystery of the “million- 
aires' boat" (we had already read amazing stories of 
this boat, but had no idea they referred to us), which 
had been the first to leave the ship* It was occupied, 
he stated, by Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, Lady Duff 
Gordon and eleven others, only two of whom were 
women. A man, whom Hopkins asserted was an 
American millionaire, had promised the boat's crew 
to “make it all right with them" if they “would get 
right away from the ship", which they did* Each 
member of the crew, concluded Hopkins, received a 
cheque for £5 upon Coutts' Bank when they were 
taken aboard the Carpathia . 

Naturally this story loosed the whole of “the 
Yellow Press" upon us, and every day the papers had 
some new addition to make. Hopkins was interviewed 
again, and further drew on his inventive powers, the 
other seamen were asked to give their version, and 
our fellow passengers also made statements, which 
completely cleared Cosmo and should have put an 
end to the story then and there* All the men of our 
boat's crew indignantly denied the statement which 
Hopkins had made, and explained the real circum- 
stances in which the cheques had been promised* 
Hopkins, who had been in another boat, could not 
possibly have known what had transpired in ours, 
but hearing of the presentation of the cheques on 
board the Carpathia he had put his own interpretation 
on the incident* 

At first we were inclined to take no notice of the 
scurrilous attacks which were being made on us in 
New York. 

“It is such a ridiculous story that it cannot do us 



170 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

any real harm,” Cosmo said. “Nobody will believe 
a thing like that.” 

But a lie that has a grain of truth in it is very 
difficult to refute. It was an undeniable fact that 
Cosmo had given each man in our boat a present of 
£5 towards a new kit, though from a very different 
motive from the one imputed to him. 

Then Mr. Tweedie, our lawyer and our very good 
friend, wired us from London that the stories which 
had appeared in certain American papers were being 
quoted in London. He advised us to return imme- 
diately and to insist on being present at the Board of 
Trade Inquiry on the loss of the Titanic , so that we 
might have a chance of personally refuting the 
abominable libels which were being circulated about us. 

So although I had intended to stay several weeks 
in New York we sailed on the Lusitania on May 7th. 



CHAPTER FIFTEEN 


M ANY years ago I promised my husband that one 
day I would tell the true story of the most 
tragic chapter in our lives and vindicate his honour, 
yet it is only now, after his death, that I am able to 
do so. For myself I would have been content enough 
to let it rest, for I do not altogether believe in uncover- 
ing old hurts, but he would have wished me to do it, 
and I owe it to the memory of one who was in every 
respect the bravest and most honourable of men. 

I suppose that the most terrible thing that can 
happen to a man is for him to be accused of cowardice, 
for however unjust the accusation may have been it 
leaves a stain which can never be wiped out, at least 
in his lifetime, for we are more charitable in our 
judgment of the dead. 

Now a naan can be accused of all sorts of things 
and get away with them, and without losing the respect 
of other men, but call him a coward and you get back 
to something primitive, and his own kind will turn on 
him and make him feel it for the rest of his life. At 
least that is what happened in my husband's case. He 
never lived down the shame of the charges that were 
brought against him, and from that time he became 
a changed man. He never spoke much about it, but 
I know that his heart was broken. 

I shall never forget his stricken face when we 
landed from the Lusitania and caught the boat train 
for London. All over the station were newspaper 
placards. . . . “Duff Gordon Scandal” . . . 

“Cowardly Baronet and his Wife who Rowed Away 
From the Drowning” . . . “Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon 



172 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

Safe and Sound While Women Go Down in the 
Titanic " . . . Newsboys ran by us shouting, 4 ‘Read 
about the Titanic cowards V* 

My son-in-law. Lord Tiverton, met us, and his 
loyalty was a great comfort to us both, but he 
looked rather grave when he spoke of the Court of 
Inquiry* 

“You will have to give evidence," he told us. “It 
is only fair that you should. You must have a chance 
of showing how false these abominable stories are. 
Of course Esme and I knew that there was not a shade 
of foundation in them, but they have given rise to a 
lot of nasty gossip." 

So we made the journey back to London feeling 
wretchedly dispirited. At the house in Lennox Gardens 
we found a stack of letters and telegrams waiting for 
us. Most of them were from old friends who were 
furiously indignant at the stories that had been circu- 
lated, and wanted to assure us of their sympathy. 
Others were from complete strangers who had read 
of the case in the papers. These were generally written 
in the most abusive strain. Some contained offers 
of advice, more or less practical. Mrs. Asquith wrote 
to tell me that she would be present at the Court of 
Inquiry every day, and that she was sure I would come 
out of the ordeal with flying colours. She advised me 
to take a stiff dose of brandy “to buck me up", hardly 
a wise suggestion as a preparation for the witness box, 
but fortunately I did not act on it. 

I never realized until the day I attended the Court 
how absolutely alone we all of us are in our moments 
of sorrow. The Scottish Hall in Buckingham Gate, 
where it was held, was so crowded that there was 
scarcely a vacant place anywhere. Looking at them 
all as I went in I recognized many who had regarded 
themselves as my intimate friends, yet it came to me 
that they were rather enjoying the novelty of seeing 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 173 

two people standing in a moral pillory, watching for 
us to make some slip in our evidence* 

Now looking back on it after all these years I think 
that the real cause of the storm which raged round us 
was that public opinion had to be offered some sacrifice* 
In the squabble as to whether the Duff Gordons had 
or had not acted in a cowardly manner the real issue 
of the Inquiry was very much obscured, at least from 
the point of view of the man in the street. 

Nobody can doubt that the wreck of the Titanic 
was, as the verdict of the Court of Inquiry described 
it, “an act of God”, but equally nobody can deny that 
had the ship been better equipped in the way of life- 
boats, and better organized in the manning of them, 
far more lives would have been saved. I am writing 
simply from the point of view of a passenger without 
technical knowledge of the control of a ship, but I 
think that the tragic reticence on the part of the ship's 
officers, which kept the majority of the passengers in 
ignorance of the probable fate of the Titanic and so 
lost valuable time in which every boat could have been 
filled to its utmost capacity without confusion, was 
responsible for unnecessary loss of life. 

I do not for a moment suggest that anyone was 
to blame for this. It is very easy to be wise after an 
emergency, and say what ought, or ought not, to have 
been done. What actually happened at the time was 
that nobody believed this magnificent boat, the “unsink- 
able Titanic ” as she had been proclaimed far and wide, 
could possibly go down. They trusted in her wonder- 
ful construction, her powerful pumps and her water- 
tight compartments, and but for one of those strange 
coincidences that sometimes happen in moments of 
tragedy, when it seems that Fate takes a hand in the 
game and sweeps our cards off the table, they would 
have been justified. 

The real tragedy of the wreck was that there was 



174 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

no need for a single life to have been lost in the Titanic, 
for the Leyland liner, Californian, was only seventeen 
miles away when the Titanic was struck, and she could 
have taken on board every man, woman and child long 
before the ship sank — but the Californian's wireless 
was incapacitated, and she was deaf to the frantic 
calls for help so near to her. 

Then again had the Titanic struck the iceberg in 
almost any other fashion than the one in which she 
did strike it, her water-tight compartments would 
have saved her. But she struck twice, each time on a 
bulkhead, knocking four compartments into one, the 
fine razor-like surface of the ice cutting its way through 
steel plating as though it had been so much paper. 

But although there was no blame to attach to any- 
one for one of the most appalling tragedies of the sea, 
there had to be some outlet for the public's emotion, 
and so the same thing happened in England as in 
America. 

The Duff Gordons were known to have escaped in 
a boat which contained their secretary, two American 
gentlemen and seven sailors — therefore everybody 
immediately assumed that the story of their escape 
was a story of the most flagrant cowardice, and with 
one accord heaped mud upon the Duff Gordons. 

Lord Mersey, the President of the Court, repeatedly 
emphasized the fact that “the Duff Gordon incident" 
had only a small bearing on the Inquiry, but this fact 
was completely lost sight of by the general public 
who apparently were disposed to regard us as criminals 
on trial. The spectacle of two people who had just 
come through the frightful ordeal of the wreck facing 
an infinitely worse ordeal was one that appealed to the 
popular imagination, and they flocked to the Court to 
appreciate it to the full. 

The charge we had to face was a moral one. We 
coul4 have incurred no legal penalties, nothing would 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 175 

have been demanded of us had it been proved, but 
the real issue at stake was to both of us at least infinitely 
more serious. As one of the papers put it: “The 
audience were not to be cheated out of the smallest 
particle of what has become the scandal of the day 
in England. . . .'' It was a terrible spectacle, this 
man of old family, battling pale-faced, almost pleading, 
for something still dearer than life, fighting for honour 
and repute. 

The accusation which was actually brought against 
us was one of incredible cowardice. It was based 
entirely on the statement of one man among our boat's 
crew, Charles Hendrickson, a Scandinavian fireman. 
Hendrickson stated that after the Titanic went down 
he had been the only man in the boat who had wanted 
to return to the spot to try to pick up survivors, but 
that all the others had over ruled him with their 
objections. I had been the one to offer the most 
resistance, he said, for I had protested that there was 
too great a danger of our being swamped, and that 
Cosmo had upheld my objections. 

This story coupled with the one which Hopkins 
had spread in America of the £5 bribe was as terrible 
as it was untrue. Hendrickson admitted, as did all 
the men of the boat's crew, that there had been no 
foundation whatever in the story of the £5 bribe, and 
the explanation which he gave of the cheques was the 
correct one — that they had been offered as a voluntary 
contribution towards a new kit for each man, and that 
the offer had been made in the boat long after the 
sinking of the Titanic . But, even so, the story had 
persisted and it was only after we had both been through 
a searching cross-examination on the question of the 
cheques and the other witnesses had also given their 
evidence that we were completely cleared. 

It was a lovely spring day, I remember, as we 
drove to the* Court, and it was difficult to believe that 



176 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

we were not going to some pleasant social function, 
for there were such rows of cars outside. Inside the 
room, too, there was little of the atmosphere of a 
court, in spite of the imposing array of counsel. All 
the women there seemed to have put on their prettiest 
spring frocks. I caught sight of the Duchess of 
Wellington and Lady Eileen Wellesley, Margot Asquith, 
whose bright eyes followed every posture of the wit- 
nesses, Prince Maurice of Battenberg, Prince Albert 
of Schleswig-Holstein, the Russian Ambassador, and 
many other people who had been guests at our house ; 
eager all of them to see what would happen. 

As Cosmo stood up to give his evidence I thought 
suddenly that a court of law can sometimes be a sub- 
stitute for the arena of the old world. Once or twice 
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was far away 
from it all. When I opened them again I saw Lord 
Mersey and the row of counsel through a haze. 

Sir Rufus Isaacs, the Attorney General, led for the 
Board of Trade. With him were Sir John Simon, Mr. 
Butler Aspinall, Mr. S. A. Rowlatt and Mr. Raymond 
Asquith. 

Sir Robert Finlay, Mr. F. Laing, Mr. Maurice 
Hill, and Mr. Norman Raeburn appeared for the 
White Star Line, and there were many more whose 
names I cannot remember. 

Mr. H. E. Duke, who is now Lord Merrivale, and 
Mr. Vaughan Williams, who were appearing for us, 
looked a very small army against so many who were 
appearing against us, I thought dismally. 

Our only defence was a complete denial of Hen- 
drickson's story. There had, of course, been no such 
conversation in the boat, certainly none in which we 
took part. Nobody had suggested going back to 
rescue possible survivors because we were at far too 
great a distance from the ship when she went down 
to be able to do so. When the Titanic disappeared 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 177 

beneath the sea we were left in our frail little emergency- 
boat without a light of any sort, without even a com- 
pass and with no means of even knowing where to 
search for the people in the water. Miss Francatelli 
and I had been the only women in the boat simply 
because we had been the only women left standing on 
the starboard deck when she was launched. My 
husband and the two American men had only got into 
the boat because there was no one else there to do so 
and the officer superintending the loading of the boats 
had given them permission to get in. The crew of 
seven men had been appointed to man the boat by 
this officer and had acted on his instructions in pulling 
well away from the ship. 

When the Titanic sank I was too seasick to have 
taken part in a discussion as to which direction we 
ought to follow even if I had wanted to do so, and 
Cosmo, who had only been a passenger in the boat, 
had left the entire navigation to Symons, the seaman, 
whom the officer had placed in charge of her. 

Symons in the course of his evidence stated on 
oath that he considered to have returned to the place 
where the Titanic had sunk would have endangered 
the safety of all on board, as we should have more than 
probably been swamped. He also affirmed that there 
had been no discussion whatever in the boat as to the 
advisability of returning, and that neither Sir Cosmo 
nor I had made any suggestions on the point whatever. 
The story that we had deliberately rowed away and 
left the drowning to their fate was monstrous. 

For over two hours Cosmo was cross-examined by 
Sir Rufus Isaacs whilst the crowd of spectators lent 
forward anxious not to miss one syllable of the dialogue. 
Once when Sir Rufus Isaacs lowered his voice Margot 
Asquith called out impatiently, “Speak up”, and other 
women echoed her. Several times there were bursts 
of applause, once especially, and Lord Mersey inter- 

M 



178 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

vened to rule out a question put by another opposing 
counsel, Mr. Harbinson. 

Sir Rufus Isaacs was absolutely relentless in the • 
way he pressed his questions ; he was, in fact, thought 
extremely severe to my husband, as were several of 
the other counsel, and their attitude evoked a great 
deal of criticism afterwards when we were dismissed 
from the case, Lord Mersey having announced that 
he proposed to take no notice whatever of the charge 
against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon. 

Mr. Ashmead Bartlett in an article which was 
published in The Academy under the title “Inquiry 
or Star Chamber ?” voiced, I think, the general opinion. 

He wrote : “Every fair-minded person must deplore 
what passed at the proceedings of the Titanic Court 
of Inquiry last week. The Court was constituted by 
the Board of Trade, acting under pressure of public 
opinion, to inquire into the causes which brought 
about the disaster of the Titanic and the resulting 
heavy loss of life. It was surely never intended that 
it should resolve itself into a species of Court of Star 
Chamber to torture witnesses who were fortunate 
enough to survive, and to cast the gravest reflections 
on their characters and conduct during those two 
tragic hours which elapsed after the Titanic received 
her death wound. Still less was the Court constituted 
that efforts might be made to stir up class against 
class in order to prove that undue preference was 
shown to the aristocrat and the wealthy. Yet almost 
the whole of last week’s evidence was taken up in 
endeavouring to prove, both by counsel on behalf of 
the Crown and by various other counsel representing 
Seamen’s Unions, Stokers’ Unions and third class 
passengers, that Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon 
were responsible for the fact that No. i lifeboat only 
contained twelve persons instead of its full comple- 
ment. ... 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 179 

"Torquemada never placed his victims more unfairly 
on the rack of the Inquisition than have Sir Cosmo and 
Lady Duff Gordon been placed on the rack of cross- 
examination* Every counsel, from the Attorney- 
General, Sir Rufus Isaacs (from whom one at least 
expected some semblance of fair play), to Mr. Har- 
binson, who put the climax on the proceedings by his 
scandalous question, has endeavoured to prove by the 
most skilful cross-questioning, by suggestio falsi , and 
by every other weapon in the armoury of the skilled 
cross-examiner, that Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon induced 
the crew of No, 1 lifeboat to row away from the sinking 
ship by offering them £5 apiece. There is not one 
tittle of evidence to support this derogatory aspersion. 
. . . Hendrickson's evidence of this imaginary con- 
versation is not supported by a single other person in 
the boat . . . Able-Seaman Symons, who was in 
charge of the boat, assumed full responsibility for all 
that occurred, and declared on oath that in his con- 
sidered opinion it would have been most dangerous 
to have ventured among the drowning multitude, and 
that he refrained from doing so in order to preserve 
the lives of those on board." 

On the subject of the £5 cheques Mr. Ashmead 
Bartlett continues : "Sir Cosmo, taking compassion 
on the unfortunate plight of these men, who had lost 
everything they possessed in the world, offered them 
£5 apiece with which to purchase immediate neces- 
sities. Was there ever a more natural action for a 
gentleman to take ? Would not anyone who had been 
almost miraculously preserved from a fate which had 
overwhelmed so many have adopted the same course? 
Yet on account of this harmless act of gratitude and 
charity Sir Cosmo has been held up to public vili- 
fication, and every unworthy motive has been attributed 
to him. But all efforts of counsel have failed to prove 
that either Sir Cosmo or Lady Duff Gordon ever said 



l8o DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

a single word against going back,, or that they attempted 
to induce the crew to row away from the scene of the 
disaster by offering them a monetary reward. . . . 

“The scene in the Court on Friday will never be 
forgotten by those who witnessed it. There did not 
seem to be a single common-sense man of the world with 
any idea of fair play in court. Not one of the eminent 
K.C,s seemed to grasp the vast and essential difference 
between men's actions in the time of great emergency 
and as they appear weeks afterwards at a Court of 
Inquiry, when the danger is past and the setting is 
absolutely different. ... It was not an inspiring 
spectacle to watch that row of lawyers increasing the 
sufferings of those who have just passed through the 
most awful ordeal which a man or Woman can be 
called upon to face." 

I was immensely grateful to Mr. Ashmead Bardett 
for his warm championship of our cause at that time, 
and I am still. Other writers were not so kind. Bernard 
Shaw indulged his biting sarcasm at our expense. 
Referring to the cry of “Women and Children First", 
which he described as a “romantic formula", he wrote : 

“And never did the chorus of solemn delight at 
the strict observance of this formula by the British 
heroes on board the Titanic rise to sublimer strains 
than in the papers containing the first account of the 
wreck by a surviving witness. Lady Duff Gordon. 
She described how she escaped in the captain's boat, 
there was one other woman in it and ten men, twelve 
all told. Chorus : Not once or twice in our rough 
island story, etc,, etc," 

Someone cut this out and sent it to me. It hurt 
me and I was childishly pleased when the article was 
replied to by Mr. Benedict Ginsburg, who wrote equally 
bitterly % 

“For the sake of modem literature and especially 
the twentieth century drama I cordially trust that 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS l8l 

the Mr. Shaw who signs this article is not the play- 
wright of the same name. . . . Mr. Shaw must now 
be sorry that in his anxiety to be smart at other people's 
expense he failed to observe another old formula, 
'Do not write of a matter while it is still sub judice'. 
Had he regarded that he would have waited and would 
have known something about the authenticity of Lady 
Duff Gordon's observations and also why there were 
ten men to two women in that particular boat." 

T. P. O'Connor wrote with his usual kindness and 
tolerance : 

"In the case of the Duff Gordons. At first the 
story told against them was ghastly ; it was that Sir 
Cosmo Duff Gordon promised a number of sailors 
a £5 note each before they left the sinking Titanic 
and that they had secured preferential treatment by 
an appeal to greed. If the story had been true one 
might well stand aghast at such selfishness. It is now 
distinctly proved that there was not a word of truth 
in the story." 

But in spite of our complete vindication before 
the Court of Inquiry, and the generous championship 
we got from the Press, a great deal of the mud which 
was flung stuck to us both. For years afterwards I 
was quite used to hearing people who did not know 
me whisper : 

"That is Lady Duff Gordon, the woman who 
row;ed away from the drowning." 

For myself I did not mind, for none of the people 
whose opinion I cared about believed such an out- 
rageous story, but I minded very much for Cosmo's 
sake. To the end of his life he grieved at the slur 
which had been cast on his honour. 



CHAPTER SIXTEEN 


I OFTEN' wonder how I ever had the audacity to 
open a branch in Paris, I, an Englishwoman, with 
a staff two-thirds English, English mannequins and 
English clothes. But I was still young enough in those 
days to see life as a game and the more opposition I 
met with the more I enjoyed it. The idea of invading 
the very temple of fashion and setting up my altar 
there appealed to me enormously. 

Just imagine it : here was I, coming over from 
England, one of the race of women whom the French 
had dubbed “the worst dressed in Europe”, the women 
who wore clumsy shoes, had their waists in the wrong 
place and were convex where they ought to be con- 
cave (that was the average Frenchman's conception 
of us in those days), coming to show Parisians how they 
ought to dress 1 The ateliers of the high priests and 
high priestesses of Fashion in the Rue de la Paix were 
stirred to their very foundations at the bare rumour 
of it. Waxed moustaches quivered with wrath, and 
ample satin-clad bosoms heaved with indignation at 
the impertinence of this interloper from across the 
Channel. 

“Never mind,” they said, “Paris will teach her a 
lesson.” 

But instead it was I who taught Paris a lesson. I 
made her open one drowsy, beautiful eye just a litde 
wider. I made her think more kindly of English- 
women and English figures and English beauty. I 
made her take my mannequins to her impressionable, 
eternally romantic heart; I made her follow the 
fashions I set, and I made her do a dozen other things. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 183 

And it all came about like this . . . 

It was actually Prince Alexander of Battenberg 
who gave me the idea of going over to Paris and open- 
ing a branch there, to challenge the French dress- 
makers on their own field. The Prince (it was in the 
days before the War, and consequently before he took 
the title of Lord Carisbrooke) was a frequent visitor 
to the house which Cosmo and I had taken in Lennox 
Gardens. He was a very simple and lovable person, 
as he is now, and had a great dislike for formalities. 
He generally came in for supper every Sunday night, 
“to take pot-luck” with us, and he used to be quite 
annoyed if we made any special preparation for him. 
Very often he would sing to us, for he is passionately 
fond of music and has a tenor voice of really lovely 
quality, although it is many years since I last heard 
him sing. Sometimes he would read aloud, which he 
did exceedingly well. Hichens was his favourite 
author and I shall always associate “The Garden of 
Allah” with his reading of it on those Sunday evenings. 

He was a very quiet young man in those days, 
probably because of his upbringing. Queen Victoria, 
he told me, had shadowed the whole of his childhood 
and that of his sister, the Queen of Spain. They had 
both been intensely lonely, for the Queen had 
grudged every hour her favourite daughter had spent 
in anyone's company but her own, and Princess 
Beatrice was not allowed to devote the time to her 
children which she would have liked. The Queen 
had the very human little foible of jealousy where her 
love for her daughter was concerned, and although she 
was fond of her grandchildren, she never managed to 
overcome it. So the four children were left mostly 
to the care of nurses, while Princess Beatrice was tom 
both ways, wanting to be with her children, but fearing 
to hurt the mother who had gone through so much 
sorrow in her life. 



84 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

The little boys and girl had hated the time at 
Windsor most of all, for their nurse had stuffed their 
poor little heads with horrible bogey tales of the ghost 
in the Castle, and they had often gone to bed s haking 
with terror, but too much in awe of their grandmother 
to confess it. The Queen with her rigid views of 
disciplining children would have had no sympathy 
with their superstitious fears, and they all dreaded 
her anger far more than a possible encounter with the 
ghost. 

One evening, after Prince Alexander had been 
singing some old French songs to us, the conversation 
turned on Paris, and I said how much I should like to 
live there. Suddenly he said, more to tease me than 
for any other reason : 

“The next thing is you will be going over there 
and starting another Lucile, and cutting out the 
French shops." 

“That's just what I should love to do I" I exclaimed. 
“It would be such fun to have the first English dress- 
maker's in Paris, and carry the war right into the 
enemies' camp. They have been sending us their 
models for a century or more. It is time we took them 
some of ours for a change. I am going to do it." 

All my life I have made my decisions suddenly. I 
have sometimes regretted them afterwards, but I have 
never gone back on them. The next morning I took 
the train for Paris. 

I stayed at the Ritz, and the first thing I did was 
to invite some of my Parisian friends to lunch. Over 
the coffee I sounded them on the subject of opening 
a Paris branch. As I had half expected they threw a 
douche of cold water over my enthusiasm. They 
were aghast at my audacity. For an English dress- 
maker to think of entering into competition with 
Paris ... their surprise was hardly flattering. Why 
all the world knew that nobody but a Frenchwoman 




MY MOTHER, NIECE, AND MYSELF 
at the ‘*1912” Ball at the Albert Hall in 1912 


[184 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 185 

knew how to dress . * * who would I sell my models 
to? ... no Parisian would ever buy them . . . 
I should lose all my capital in such a ridiculous ven- 
ture . . . and much more of it in the same strain. 

But I was not to be deterred. I had meant to go 
steadily ahead with my scheme, and did so, in the 
teeth of their advice. I took a wonderful old Empire 
house in the Rue de Penthievres, and metaphorically 
ran up the English flag. 

Paris shrugged its dainty shoulders, the Rue de la 
Paix was slightly ruffled ; I was caricatured at the 
theatres, and in the papers there were grotesque 
sketches of me with an absurd train of flat-chested, 
large-footed Anglaises , arriving to conquer Paris. 

I did not worry about it. I had confidence in 
myself, I knew that I could convert Paris as I had 
converted New York, and I was far too busy getting 
the house ready for us to listen to what the Rue de la 
Paix was saying about me. There was an enormous 
lot of work to do, for the house, lovely as it was, was 
in a dreadful state of neglect. Cobwebs were over 
everything, all the paint had worn off, and it had to 
be redecorated from attic to cellar. I shall always 
remember the disapproving face of my English maid 
when I showed it to her. 

“Empire, did you say it was?” she asked. “Well, 
all I can say is the Emperor must have been a very 
dirty fellow I” 

On my first tour of inspection of the whole house 
I climbed right to the top story. It appeared deserted 
except for the combined rubbish of three previous 
tenants which was left in untidy piles ; cardboard 
boxes, waste papers, old clothes littered the passage. 
Then at the far corner I opened a door and came upon 
a little old woman. She started to her feet when she 
saw me, and looked utterly terrified. The agent who 
was taking me round explained that she would be 



186 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

evicted immediately. When she heard this (we had 
spoken in French), the poor old soul burst out cry ing 
and shuffling over to me she seized my hand and 
implored me piteously to let her remain in the house. 

"It is the only home I have ever known," she sobbed. 
"Do not let them turn me out of it. I shall not live 
long to trouble you. Pour V amour de Dieu, let me stay l” 

Of course I let her stay, for she was in nobody's 
way up in her little room on the sixth floor, and nothing 
would have induced me to deprive her of it. I have 
never seen anything so pathetic as her gratitude. Her 
face, in spite of its wrinkles, became almost beautiful, 
as she walked round the room she had thought she 
would have to leave, touching each beloved article of 
furniture as though to reassure herself that it was still 
there. I realized then what a contrast this one poor 
little room was to the rest of the house. Its furniture 
was worn and threadbare, but it was scrupulously 
clean, and the bed linen had been carefully washed 
and mended. 

After that I often visited Grandmere as we used to 
call her, and I heard her story. She was nearly ninety 
years old, and had originally come to the house as a 
pretty girl of eighteen from her home in Normandy 
to be a nursemaid to the family who had then occupied 
it. She had nursed three generations of children, and 
built her whole life round theirs. But she had out- 
lived them, and when eventually the family died out 
the house had been sold. The new landlord, a kind 
man, had let her remain in her tiny room, and her 
wants were so small that the few francs a week which 
he had allowed her for cleaning his suite of offices on 
the first floor had kept her in food. Her one fear had 
been that when he let it she would be turned out and 
sent to the asile . 

She remained in possession of her little room until 
she died some years later, and soon became a great 





fi l 

1 

!? 


“LUCILE'S” HOUSE AT n RUE DE PENTHIEVRES 
where I had such a big success with my English fashions and Mannequins, 

started 19 11 

[1S6 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 187 

favourite with the girls. They used to run up and 
down stairs to see that she was all right, and often they 
would give her a remnant of silk to make a cap for 
herself. In return she used to fuss over them, make 
tea and do all sorts of little odd jobs, and when she 
died the poor old lady left me her most cherished 
possession, the big crucifix she had brought all the 
way from her home in Normandy seventy-five years 
before. 

Knowing the Parisian temperament I decided to 
have more colourful decorations in the house in the 
Rue de Penthievres than in Hanover Square, and I 
had the broad staircase leading up to the showroom 
carpeted in purple. On the opening day I had them 
banked with flowers ; the guests might have been 
attending a wedding reception rather than a dress 
show, which was precisely the atmosphere I wanted 
to create. So I filled my rooms with lilac, roses and 
carnations, and served tea and iced coffee and little 
cakes, and I engaged the best orchestra in Paris. 

On the day of my first mannequin parade, and for 
every day that week, the Rue de Penthievres was a 
solid mass of luxurious cars. Nobody could attempt 
to drive right up to the door, for the traffic was two 
and three deep ; extra police were called out to regulate 
it. The mauve invitation cards, which the guests 
carried, brightened the sober old street. 

Paris had never seen such a thing, a crowd of eight 
hundred people, famous actresses, more famous cour- 
tesans, women of title, women of fashion, with a good 
sprinkling of equally famous men, artists, men of 
letters, diplomats, all waiting to get into a mannequin 
parade. 

Paris began to wonder, Paris began to be intrigued. 
There must surely be something worth seeing in the 
grey old Rue de Penthievres. Paris wanted to find 
out for herself, and so, long after the flowers of the 



188 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

opening day had faded and the little cakes had all 
been eaten, men and women continued to walk up the 
purple carpeted stairs, famous actresses and society 
women, men of letters and diplomats. The women 
came again because they wanted to see the dresses and 
the men came again because they wanted to see Hebe 
and Garnela and Dolores. And meantime the orders 
poured in and Paris stopped laughing in its embroidered 
sleeve, and the Rue de la Paix stopped making jokes 
about VAnglaise who was coming over to show Paris 
how hideous English clothes could be, and set itself 
with renewed zeal to lure the sheep who had 
strayed into the Rue de Penthievres back to the fold. 

Paris had adopted me, Paris with her generous 
warm-heartedness had seen in me an artist worthy of 
her protection. My first season there had established 
me as one of the little coterie, one of the makers of 
modes by whose dictates the world of fashion is ruled. 
My models were looked for at all the races, everyone 
wanted to see what Lucile was creating. Before I 
had been there many months I had made one or two 
arbitrary moves. 

One of them was a revolution for which I think 
all the present generation of women ought to be grate- 
ful to me. I was the first designer to abolish the high- 
boned collar, that ugly and most uncomfortable atrocity 
which was then disfiguring the neck of every woman 
who wore it. No woman who has not worn one can 
possibly imagine how horrible it was to have one's 
throat scarred by sharp collar supports made of either 
whalebone or steel, which ran into one with every 
movement, so that the head had to be kept rigidly in 
a most unnatural position. There was never a fashion 
which was more of a menace to beauty, for not only 
was the skin spoilt by being permanently encased so 
that it could get no air, but a double chin nearly always 
appeared at an early age. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 189 

When I arrived in Paris every good Parisienne was 
encased to the ears in a collar of net or chiffon, heavily 
boned, and they all looked rather askance at the beauti- 
fully rounded and untrammelled throats of my manne- 
quins, but before long I was sufficiently an accepted 
fact to be taken seriously and followed* They came 
to choose their new dresses, found the low necks on 
all of them, demurred a bit * * . I quoted Sir Joshua 
Reynolds as my authority for beauty, extolled the 
loveliness of a woman's neck in glowing terms . . * 
they gave in, tried the experiment of a low collar . . . 
and never wore anything else from that day. Triumph- 
antly I launched “the Quaker Girl collar" and “the 
Peter Pan neck" and saw each in turn become the 
rage. 

Another innovation I brought in, though this was 
a folly, an extravagance in keeping with all the extra- 
vagances and exaggerations of a pre-War Paris basking 
in the sunshine of its last few seasons of brilliance, 
was the fashion of wearing coloured wigs. Every 
smart woman wanted one of these tetes de couleurs, as 
they were called, to wear in the evening. It was a 
queer, exotic caprice of mine, but it caught on. The 
wigs matched the dresses, a rose pink with a dress of 
deeper pink, a jade green with a dress of emerald. 
The coloured heads bobbing about a dance floor made 
it look like a flower garden, but it was a charming 
fashion for those it suited. 

Before I had been in Paris six months I had more 
than doubled my staff. I made Celia my manageress, 
and with her I had a talented little band of designers 
working with me, for it was impossible now for me to 
personally design every model for the three houses, 
London, Paris, and New York. One of them was a 
very brilliant young man, named Edward Molyneux, 
who had come over with me from London. 

He had been brought to see me while he was still 



190 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

in his teens, a pale, delicate boy, with a passion for 
drawing and a still greater love of beautiful colours. 
He used to make little sketches of the models I designed, 
which were used in the showrooms, and his earnings 
varied from £i to 30s. a week. Before long I realized 
that here was someone who had more than mere talent, 
he had a genius for designing clothes. I took him with 
me to Paris and to New York, and I think I taught him 
a great many things. He is now, of course, Molyneux, 
the famous couturier, and one of the most successful 
business men in Paris. He tells me that he owes 
everything to me. I would hardly like to say as much 
as that, but I am happy to remember that I certainly 
developed his own gifts. 

Molyneux was especially successful in designing 
for the stage, for, like all very young designers, he had 
at that time a craze for the bizarre and exotic, nothing 
was too vivid for him, nothing too extravagant. All 
the greatest artistes of the French stage used to drive 
up to the tall old house in the Rue de Penthievres and 
spend sometimes the entire day choosing clothes. I 
used to receive them in my studio, give them tea, and 
talk to them on all sorts of subjects, rarely about clothes, 
but at the end of half an hour I would have gained an 
impression of their personalities, and I would begin 
to picture them in chiffon, cut like the petals of a 
flower, or in stately brocades and ermines, whatever I 
thought suited them best. Then I would shut myself 
up and work furiously and in a few days everybody 
would be talking of what Regina Badet or Mistinguette 
was wearing. 

And so 1912 and 1913 passed, and 1914, most 
brilliant summer of all, drew together the curtains on 
a Paris which we shall never know again, a Paris of 
lavish entertainments, of magnificent fetes, of salons 
which rivalled those of the past, a Paris where music 
and wit and conversation flourished, and where life 

1 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 191 

went by with a thousand airs and graces which we 
have no time for now. 

It was a Paris of great wealth and of almost unpre- 
cedented extravagance, for luxury trades were kept 
alive by the princely expenditure of American million- 
aires and Russian grand dukes. Fortunes were lavished 
on the fashionable courtesans, the uncrowned queens 
at whose feet men poured out a romantic adoration 
which has no parallel to-day, since beauty is no longer 
worshipped. The power of these women was amazing. 
In their palatial houses they entertained kings and 
statesmen, stirred with delicate, white, scented hands 
the broth of international affairs, maintained a retinue 
of servants and dependents, and spent money like 
water. And with it all they were the idols of the public ; 
Paris which had howled with derision at the follies and 
extravagances of Marie Antoinette scarcely more than 
a century before, loved the tyrannies of these twenty 
or thirty queens who had arisen in her place. 

In the morning crowds used to wait in the Avenue 
du Bois to watch them get out of their electric brough- 
ams ; it was almost like a pageant. Each one of them 
affected some particular caprice. One would be 
dressed in white always, in robes of almost nun-like 
severity, with a simple girdle knotted round the waist, 
until one saw at a second glance that the robes of white 
chiffon were transparent, that their wearer appeared 
to have practically nothing on underneath them, and 
that the “simple girdle” was composed of a rope of 
pearls. 

Another, I think it was “la belle Otero”, would 
dress in tiger skins and golden sandals, while in attend- 
ance on her would be four huge negroes, dressed like 
the slaves of old times ; sometimes they carried her 
in a sort of palanquin, on their shoulders. One of them 
who affected to be the reincarnation of the Pompadour 
surrounded herself with possessions which had once 



192 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

belonged to the famous royal favourite, dressed in the 
costume of the Pompadour's day and only went out 
in a carriage drawn by four white horses* 

All these women went about in public wearing 
jewels worth fifty thousand pounds or more, but I 
do not think they were ever robbed, they were the 
spoilt children of Paris, they appealed to the sense of 
the dramatic which is engrained in the Parisian, and 
so they were loved and protected* 

Many of them used to come to me for their clothes, 
and I was surprised to find them far more interesting 
to talk to than I should have expected from their mode 
of life. I found out that they took just as much pains 
to develop their minds as they did to keep their beauty* 
They had lessons in half a dozen languages, were 
taught music by the professors of the Conservatoire 
and used to pay enormous fees to some of the great 
scholars of the day to come and discuss literature, art 
and politics with them. This was done in order that 
they might feel mentally the equals of the wealthy and 
cultured men who frequented their salons. 

Yet with all this money many of them ended their 
days in direst poverty, for there are few things more 
tragic than the fate of a dethroned favourite* Only 
a very few of them managed to save enough to keep 
them in their old age, some of the more prudent 
married wealthy bourgeois, one or two went into 
convents . * . nobody knows what has become of 
the rest* They have simply dropped out. 

I can remember so vividly many of them sweeping 
into my showrooms, choosing perhaps in one morning 
a thousand pounds' worth of clothes, very often more. 
One of them, I remember, bought four hats, each with 
their wonderful aigrettes costing ioo francs each* Her 
secretary made out the cheque for them and they were 
carried down to her car. Another spent in one week 
Jtfty thousand francs on dresses, hats and their accom- 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 193 

panying underclothes, handkerchiefs and scent. Most 
of diem were generous to a fault. I remember that 
one of them was in the showroom once when a poor old 
woman came in to beg. She had somehow or other 
eluded the commissionaire and slipped unnoticed up 
the stairs. The saleswoman gave her some money 
and told her to go out at once, but the famous beauty, 
who was trying on hats, summoned her across the 
room. Catching up hats, bags, scarves and fans, and 
in fact everything that was in reach, she loaded them 
upon the bewildered beggar, who staggered out and 
down the stairs with her arms full of the most costly 
finery. They could have been of little use to the poor 
old soul, except to make her an object of suspicion to 
every passing policeman, for second-hand, in the sort 
of shops which would be accessible to her, they would 
not bring in a twentieth part of their proper value. 
But it was a kind gesture. 

One of the beauties of the pre-War Paris whom I 
remember best was Monna Delza. She was an exquis- 
itely beautiful creature, with a hundred whims and 
fancies. She had all sorts of beauty treatments which 
she carried out zealously, bathed in milk, washed her 
hair in champagne in which rosemary and bay leaves 
had been steeped, and looked after her health with 
the same fastidious care as Ninon de TEnclos used in 
the preservation of her beauty. It was said that she 
never walked anywhere except in her own house, and 
she was massaged for hours each day with a special oil 
which was prepared by an old gipsy woman from a 
secret formula. All these stories endeared her to the 
public, and crowds used to wait round the door of her 
wonderful house. She had spent thousands of pounds 
on decorating it, and among her other possessions was 
the bed which had belonged to Marie Antoinette. This 
queen of fashion slept every night on the bed whore 
the last of the Queens of France had laid her unhappy 



194 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

head, and knelt upon the prie-Dieu where she had per- 
haps poured out agonized prayers for the safety of her 
children and herself, 

I made a great many dresses for Monna D elza , and 
she was, if I remember rightly, the first to wear one 
of my coloured wigs. She was so lovely that it was a 
joy to dress her, and I always found her an inspiration. 

Then there was Mata Hari, who afterwards met her 
death at the hands of the French in the War, shot as 
a spy. Nobody ever knew exactly who Mata Hari 
was, for she carried the secret of her birth to the grave 
with her. She was a strange, exotic creature, arrogant 
and overbearing, subject to dreadful fits of melancholy. 
She had many lovers, some of the richest and most 
aristocratic men in Europe were among them, for she 
seemed to have some mysterious power of fascination. 
Not one of them was able to save her from her fat e, 
although every effort was made and hundreds of thou- 
sands of pounds were offered as bribes for her release, 
but without avail. The man who loved her best of all 
the crowd who surrounded her never recovered from 
the shock of her death. He went into a Trappist 
monastery. 

Poor little Gaby Deslys was another of my 
clients in Paris. She was not so beautiful as some of 
the others, but there was something endearing in her 
personality, and her smile, which was at once very 
merry and yet wistful, was one of her greatest charms. 
She was very individual in her style of dress and used 
to like the most exaggerated fashions, but they always 
suited her. She brought in the high hats with crowns 
tilted up like flower-pots, and covered, with feathers. 
I designed one for her, but when it was finished I 
did not care for the effect of it. 

“You must change your hair-dressing/ 1 I told her 
critically. 

So we experimented, and presently Gaby appeared 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 195 

with her hair dressed low at the nape of the neck and 
only slightly waved. The hairdressing caught on at 
once, and within a few days every fashionable woman 
in Paris had copied it. 

Gaby had a royal admirer who was absolutely 
devoted to her. He often came with her to the house 
in the Rue de Penthievres and waited patiently while 
she was being fitted. He was very emotional and very 
jealous. Once they had a violent quarrel in the fitting- 
room about some man who was paying her attentions, 
and stormed at one another, both of them shouting so 
loudly that every word could be heard in the show- 
room. Gaby rushed up and down in her silk petticoat, 
while the fitters waited to try on her new clothes, and 
her royal admirer worked himself up into such a state 
of anger that it culminated in a fit of hysteria in which 
he threw himself on the floor and sobbed. After he 
had been given brandy and helped to a sofa they had 
an almost equally violent reconciliation. 



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN 


T HE years I spent in Paris were some of the 
happiest in my life. 

As soon as I had opened the house in the Rue de 
Penthievres I started to look for a flat, for I hated the 
commural life of an hotel, and I wanted to have my 
own things about me. 

I found a lovely little appartement in the Rond 
Point des Champs-Elysees. It was at the top of a tall 
house, very quaint and old-fashioned, with a big 
salon which made an ideal studio when I wanted to 
work at home, and a bedroom which was always full 
of sunlight, for it had three double windows. I used 
to breakfast there early in the mornings and lie in bed 
looking out over Paris, watching the Seine curling 
lazily along and the slow-moving barges bringing their 
freight into Paris before the rest of the world was well 
awake, and in the evening I would watch the sun 
setting over the Arc de Triomphe in a blaze of crimson 
and purple and gold. 

I loved housekeeping in Paris too. No fuss or 
trouble about meals, you just gave the cook so much 
to spend every day, and she did the rest. It was like 
the wave of a magician’s wand, you never knew what 
you were going to be given to eat until it appeared on 
the table, perfectly cooked. It was all so simple, and, 
in pre-War Paris, so cheap. The only shopping I 
ever did was buying the flowers. Twice a week I used 
to go to the flower market, and for a few francs I would 
bring home an armful of roses, lilac and carnations, 
or whatever was in bloom at the time. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 197 

On Saturday evenings I used to give little informal 
parties and keep open house for all my friends. There 
was generally a sort of buffet supper at which everyone 
helped themselves, and there would be music and a 
great deal of conversation, which usually involved us 
in argument. On rare occasions we would prevail on 
Rejane, who was nearly always one of the guests, to 
recite to us, and we would sit spellbound with the 
beauty of her voice. At those moments one forgot 
that she was old and almost plain, forgot everything 
except the character she was portraying. Without the 
background of the stage, without lighting or make-up 
or anything but that golden, flexible voice, she could 
convey the illusion of being young and beautiful when 
she chose. 

Then there would be Comte Boni de Castellane, 
without whom no fashionable gathering was complete 
at that time. "Anna Gould's husband” most people 
labelled him at first, until they came under the influence 
of his own brilliant and forceful personality. He was 
clever, cynical and very elegant in a tired sort of way, 
and above all, quite different from anybody else. He 
could wear the most amazing clothes, coats with enor- 
mous padded shoulders and high stock collars, and 
look well in them, and in fact get away with any 
eccentricity. He had a great idea of the value of a 
pose. 

The night before I opened the branch in the Rue 
de Penthievres I dined with him at the Ritz. I had 
been very busy all day, and had not taken the trouble 
to dress. I wore the plainest of little black frocks with 
no jewels. Every other woman in the restaurant had 
made a wonderful toilette, the jewels sparkled like a 
Christmas tree. 

Boni de Castellane observed my appearance with 
the greatest satisfaction. 

"Ah, Madame, comma vous etes rudement chic V* 



198 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

he exclaimed. 4 ‘Who but you would have thought of 
wearing that simple, that so inconspicuous black dress, 
when all the world knows that you could have the most 
magnificent clothes ever created, if you chose. It is 
real artistry this appearance on the eve of the mannequin 
display !” 

I laughed at his point of view, for I had never 
thought of wearing my little black dress to make an 
effect. I had only put it on because I had not thought 
about it at all. 

Curiously enough after I became a dressmaker I 
ceased to take much interest in my clothes. Before I 
started creating dresses for other women I used to 
love making my own, but the more my fame as a 
designer spread the more likely I was to turn up at 
some ultra-fashionable gathering in a model which 
had done duty for two or even three seasons. I sup- 
pose it is the same principle that inspires the proverb 
of the cobbler's children being always the worst shod. 
Most of us get a surfeit of the things which we work 
amongst all day and want to get away from them 
whenever we can. 

Leon Bakst was like me in this respect. At the 
time all Paris was talking of the scenery he had designed 
for the Russian Ballet, which had taken the critics 
and public alike by storm, he was living at an apparte- 
ment in the Boulevard Malsherbes furnished with the 
utmost simplicity. The man whose blending of colour 
on the stage was so audacious it took one's breath 
away decorated his own rooms in shades of sober 
grey. 

I grew to know Leon Bakst well, and liked 
him immensely* He used to come to my studio 
and play with the gorgeous silks and brocades 
there, draping himself up in them, running the 
delicate materials through his fingers in an abstracted 
way. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 199 

"They give me ideas for my designs,” he would 
say when I asked him what he was doing. 

He was one of the few people whom I would allow 
to be near me when I was working, for he had one of 
the quietest and most restful personalities of anyone 
I have ever met- He had the rare gift of silence, and 
never talked a great deal, although what he had to say 
was always worth listening to. 

Before I had been in Paris many months I had 
gathered round me all the people whose society I liked 
best of all, people who did things, artists, writers, 
sculptors, musicians- The Faubourg, with its dull 
dinner-parties and interminable receptions, I avoided ; 
my youthful recollections of it were too vivid ! Paris 
is infinitely more friendly to the stranger within its 
gates than London, for it is not divided into count- 
less cliques as London is. In Paris there is only 
la haute societe and le monde artistique - I preferred 
to belong to the latter, and its members took me to 
themselves in the friendliest and most delightful 
way. 

At the Villa Trianon I met some of the most 
interesting men and women of the day. This beautiful 
villa in Versailles was shared by three charming 
American women, Elsie de Wolfe, Elizabeth Marbury 
and Anne Morgan- The last was the daughter of 
Pierpoint Morgan, very talented, very good-looking and 
immensely rich. She had more suitors than she knew 
how to get rid of, but she turned a deaf ear to them 
all. The three were the pioneers of the bachelor girls 
of to-day, until Elsie deserted the fold and became 
Lady Mendl- 

Paris envied them their youth and their freedom, 
and their obvious enjoyment of it ; soon it had adopted 
them. Their receptions were famous, nearly every 
celebrity in the world of art, music and literature 
flocked to them. Before long they were the leaders 



200 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

of a little coterie of brilliant young people; the day 
of youth was just dawning, young painters were getting 
their work into the Salon, young composers were 
getting their music played. 

So grey-bearded philosophers and historians and 
famous artists and playwrights paid homage to the 
youthful occupants of the Villa Trianon, walked 
in its lovely gardens, argued with one another 
and sometimes quarrelled ; but they always cam e 
again. 

At one of these receptions I met Victorien Sardou. 
It was a little while before his death in 1908. He 
was a very distinguished-looking old gentleman, with 
such beautiful manners that it was a pleasure to talk 
to him. I told him how much I appreciated the honour 
of meeting him. 

“I feel that I ought to make you tell me all sorts 
of interesting things," I said to him, “so that in the 
future when I tell people I once had the privilege of 
talking to the great Sardou I shall be able to add all 
that he told me." 

“Ah, Madame, what do you want me to tell you ?" 
he answered. “Do not all men, whether they are 
supposed to be celebrated or not, say the same things 
to a young and pretty woman ?"- 

So we discussed my work and my studio, and the 
rival merits of French and Italian cooking, for he was 
something of a gourmet ; and then, knowing what 
an authority he was on the French Revolution, I wanted 
to know his opinion on a question which had always' 
puzzled me. 

“ Cher maltre ," I asked, “do you believe that Count 
Fersen was Marie Antoinette’s lover or not? I do 
hope he was, because I have always admired her, and 
been so sorry for her, and I should like to think that 
she had at least that much happiness before she went 
to the guillotine." 




THE GARDEN of ELSIE DE WOLFE’S (LADY MENDL) 
Villa Trianon at Versailles, 1913 



MY HUSBAND AND SELF 

in the Garden of "Pavilion Mars" at Versailles in 1914, just before the 
War, with Porthos, the huge St. Bernard, and Mr. Futze, the Peke 


boo 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


201 


A smile lit up his rather stern face* 

“Cher Madame , ne vous inquietez pas!” 

It was at the Villa Trianon that I first came to 
know Sarah Bernhardt. She was even then a very 
old woman, but I shall always remember the vivid 
impression of youth her wonderful violet eyes gave 
me ; the soul which looked out of them was so eternally 
young; so was her voice, and her smile, which was 
extraordinarily sweet, was that of a young and beautiful 
woman. She was very friendly and charming to me 
and after that first meeting came several times to my 
studio. I designed her a number of dresses. All of 
them had the familiar high collar framing her face, 
for she would never wear anything else. 

“You must not try to make me forget I am an 
ugly old woman,” she said to me once. “As a matter 
of fact I was an ugly young one, too, but it has not 
made men love me any the less.” 

I could well realize how irresistible her charm 
must have been when she was young, for there was 
something like a flame of fire in her spirit. No man 
would ever feel sure of this strange woman, at one 
moment he would hold her in his arms, at the next 
she would be as aloof and remote as the stars. Although 
she attracted men all her life, had many love affairs 
and admitted to having received over a thousand 
proposals of marriage, I do not think that Sarah 
Bernhardt could ever really love any man. It always 
seemed as though she wanted to avenge the pain 
which the father of her son gave her in the time of 
her early youth, when he had her turned away from 
his door with her child in her arms, and only the sum 
of fifty francs between her and starvation. The bitter- 
ness and contempt which she felt for him in that 
moment never left her for the rest of her life, and she 
retaliated by hurting the men who fell in love with 
her. 



203 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

I remember a story which a well-known and 
immensely wealthy Englishman once told me in con- 
nection with Sarah Bernhardt, although it was very 
much against himself. 

There was at that time in Paris a woman whose 
boast it was that she could procure any woman for 
any man provided he was willing to pay enough. 
Although her activities were common knowledge she 
was actually received, incredible as it seems, in Society 
in both London and Paris, and no doubt did very 
well out of her various transactions. 

This particular Englishman, after resisting her 
blandishments, told her that there was only one woman 
he desired in the whole of Paris and that woman was 
Sarah Bernhardt. The go-between was doubtful. It 
might be done, she said, but the great actress was 
very proud and it was many years since she had had 
any love affairs. It would certainly need a great deal 
of money to induce her to consent to receive him. 
He replied that he was willing to pay any sum to possess 
the most wonderful woman in the world. 

A few days later the go-between returned. Much 
to his surprise she announced that she had been 
successful. She had visited Sarah Bernhardt and had 
broached the object of her visit as tactfully as possible. 
Sarah had listened in silence, looking very thoughtful. 
When she spoke it was only to ask the exact terms of 
the transaction. The go-between named an enormous 
sum. 

Sarah shrugged her shoulders. “Very well, then. 
I suppose I should be a fool to refuse so much 
money/' 

Accordingly the money was sent to her and after 
the cheque had been cashed the suitor went to call 
upon her, carrying a splendid bouquet. He was full 
of the most eager anticipation, he said, in telling me 
the story afterwards, and all the way to the great 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 203 

actress's house he called up visions of her as he had 
so often seen her on the stage, tragic and beautiful 
in her different roles ; pale and spiritual and appealing 
as “La Dame aux Camelias", terrible and magnificent 
as “Lucrezia Borgia"* She seemed the very spirit 
of all womanhood, a thousand women rolled into one. 
What a wonderful experience to hold her in his arms, 
to see her in the flesh for the first time instead of from 
the stalls of a theatre. True, he knew that she was 
not a young woman, but who would ever think of 
age in connection with Sarah Bernhardt ? Her 
experience of life would make her the more enchanting, 
so different from some insipid girl. 

All these thoughts passed through his mind, 
he told me, as he walked to the house, and his 
heart was beating with excitement when he rang the 
beU. 

He was admitted and told that the great actress 
was expecting him. Would he walk straight in to the 
salon? Madame was there. 

He walked in and the woman who was sitting there 
turned at his entrance. To his horror he saw an ugly 
old creature, with withered face, bleared eyes and 
scanty grey hair twisted into curling rags. She wore a 
woollen shawl over her dingy black dress, and in her 
hand she held a grey stocking she had been knitting 
as he entered. 

“I came to see Madarqe Sarah Bernhardt," he 
said, supposing her to be a servant. 

The old woman carefully put a pair of spectacles 
on her nose and regarded him through them. 

“I am Sarah Bernhardt," she answered in a harsh 
voice. “What do you want?" 

It was too great a blow to romance. The delicate 
fabric of his dreams was torn for ever. Stammering a 
few broken words of apology he fled from the room 
ignominiously. He never saw her again. 



204 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

I like this story of Sarah Bernhardt, for I can so 
well understand the mischievous sense of humour 
which prompted her to teach this man, who had thought 
to buy her love, a lesson* I can imagine how she must 
have laughed as she made herself up as a hideous 
old hag* Yet I think that if his love for her had been 
sincere enough to stand the test she put him to the 
story might have ended very differently* 

One Sunday in May I arrived at the Villa Trianon 
and found the guests in the garden, scattered in little 
groups on the lawn waiting for tea which Elsie de 
Wolfe was pouring out* As usual there was a crowd, 
artists, writers and musicians, but most of the attention 
seemed to be centred on one woman, who was talking 
very little herself* She stood quite still while the 
conversation eddied and rippled around her, rather 
like a dark, silent pool into which someone has thrown 
a handful of pebbles. I noticed, when the circle parted 
a little, that she was dressed very simply in a tunic 
of chiffon which showed every line of her beautiful 
body, and her feet, which were encased in sandals. 
The lovely poise of her head and the way in which 
she held the armful of lilac she had gathered reminded 
one irresistibly of a statue. I was told that she was 
the famous dancer, Isadora Duncan* 

As I already knew her brother Raymond, whom 
I had met in America, and some of the other members 
of her family, we found plenty to talk about, and a 
friendship was begun which, although we would some- 
times lose sight of one another for years together, 
lasted until the day of her death. 

There was much to admire in the character of this 
eccentric, impulsive and brilliantly clever woman, who 
seemed fated to be so often tragically misunderstood. 
I knew her well enough to realize that what most people 
took for affectation was to her a passionate reality. 
She lived for her art and for beauty in any form, she 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 205 

could only express emotion in movement. She was, 
for instance, bitterly criticized in Paris for the funeral 
dance she performed over the bodies of her two 
children, who were drowned in the Seine ; even her 
best friends were shocked at the apparent callousness 
of it. She could not have felt any real grief, said the 
gossips, to think of dancing at such a time. They 
were quite wrong, for she grieved desperately for her 
children, and never for one moment forgot them, 
but she was so accustomed to express sorrow in the 
gestures of the old Greeks that it came naturally to 
her to do so in a moment of great emotion. 

I have many memories of Isadora Duncan, as a 
young woman at the height of her fame, and as a 
woman growing old and fighting desperately against 
age. Her death has been called a tragedy, but it was 
infinitely less tragic than her life would have been to 
her had she lived to grow really old. She was so 
utterly pagan in everything she thought and did, and 
the years would have held nothing for her once she 
had lost her youth. 

Isadora often came to see me in my studio and later, 
when I took a house at Versailles which had a beautiful 
garden, she would sometimes come and dance there. 
I remember on one occasion she danced for nearly 
two hours with scarcely a pause. It was a lovely mid- 
summer's day, and I had invited a number of people 
to a garden-party. Isadora Duncan and her dancers 
had promised to appear, and all the guests were anxious 
to see them, for it was some time since they had given 
a public performance in Paris. 

The party began at four, and Isadora had promised 
to be there at half -past. Five o'clock arrived, and 
there was no sign of her ; a quarter past five ; the 
band was waiting patiently and the Duncan dancers 
in their Greek draperies were standing about the lawn 
unable to begin their programme without her. She 



306 discretions and indiscretions 

o’clock passed and the guests were growing impatient, 
some of them had already gone, the rest sat talking 
and trying not to look bored. By half-past six I knew 
that my party had been a complete failure, and that 
there was nothing to be done but to send the 
Duncan dancers away and make what excuses I 
could to the few remaining guests for Isadora’s non- 
arrival. 

Fond as I was of her I was exceedingly annoyed 
at her behaviour and went to bed feeling in a very 
bad humour. I was undressing when I heard a great 
commotion at the front door. Someone was apparently 
trying to break into the house. I flung on a dressing- 
gown and ran downstairs, followed by my secretary 
and the valet-de-chambre . A series of resounding 
knocks was followed by the voice of Isadora Duncan 
calling, ’’Let me in !” 

The door was opened at once and there stood 
Isadora and X., with whom she was at that time having 
a passionate love affair. They had both been to a 
cafe, where they had had a great deal to drink, and 
had come to fulfil Isadora’s belated engagement with 
me. She had completely forgotten that she had 
promised to dance at my garden-party until they were 
half-way through dinner, and with her characteristic 
impulsiveness she had insisted on coming out to 
Versailles that evening. 

While she was speaking she flung off her mantle 
until she stood dressed only in her chiffon draperies, 
and X., going into the salon, sat down at the piano 
and began to play. The strains of a Chopin nocturne 
floated out to us through the open windows as Isadora 
walked out on to the centre of the lawn, and raising her 
arms in a beautiful sweeping movement started to 
dance as though she was inspired. 

It was an unforgettable scene. I shall keep the 
picture of that June night in my garden at Versailles, 







DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 307 

with Isadora dancing in the moonlight. while X. played 
Chopin, in my memory as long as I live* For nearly 
two hours she held her audience of three, myself, 
my secretary and the valet, spellbound while she 
danced, now in the shadow, now in the light of the 
full moon, her purple scarf throwing into relief her 
white arms, her white feet gleaming against the velvety 
green of the lawn* 

It was the last time I ever saw her dance, for she 
left Paris soon afterwards, and our paths did not cross 
again until just shortly before her death, when she 
had practically given up dancing* 

Isadora Duncan, like her brother Raymond, had 
a profound contempt for modern dancing, which she 
always said was ugly and meaningless* I remember 
that just before the War I invited her to a dinner- 
party at Luna Park, which was then the most fashion- 
able place in Paris, and she looked so out of place there 
in her Grecian draperies among the latest evening 
dresses* Afterwards she burlesqued the dancing of 
the Tango, which she had seen there* Just at that 
time Paris was in the grip of a positive mania for the 
Tango — the post-War dancing wave was as nothing 
to it* Everyone was Tango mad, from la haute societe 
down to the little midinettes, whom one used to see 
practising new steps in the Jardins des Tuileries in 
their lunch hour* It brought in special fashions 
designed for the exigencies of “the scissors” and other 
complicated steps, the vogue for Argentine bands, 
and the gigolo. The last has been the most permanent 
of the innovations. 

Before the Tango, with its difficult steps, became 
popular the professional partner was practically 
unknown, but when Paris adopted the Argentine's 
dance with such fervour, slim youths, also from the 
Argentine, began to see its possibilities as a means of 
livelihood. Those who wanted to be proficient in the 



208 discretions and indiscretions 

new steps had to have a teacher, and what more suit- 
able than to have a teacher from the Tango’s native 
land? As young and old took to the floor on a common 
impulse, determined at all costs to excel in the dance 
of the moment, more and more teachers were necessary. 
The mania for the Tango passed, but the professional 
partner remained. 



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN 


ALL through that last brilliant pre-War summer 
IX Paris amused herself, spent recklessly, gave 
wonderful fetes, laughed, danced and made love as 
though she had not a care in the world. And nobody 
saw the war clouds gathering up until they burst with 
shattering suddenness, silencing the music of the 
Tango bands, scattering the dancers to towns and 
villages all over France to await mobilization orders, 
parting the lovers. 

In one week Paris was a changed city. There was 
nothing of the optimistic war-is-bound-to-be-over- 
before-Christmas spirit which was keeping London 
cheerful ; Paris was too near the war zone to take her 
position anything but seriously. Every man and woman 
went about with the haunting fear that at any moment 
their beloved city might be in the hands of the enemy. 
The night resorts of Montmartre might be crowded 
with men on leave, and women who were trying to 
make them forget the horrors of the trenches, but the 
gaiety there was hectic and unreal, the spontaneous 
jaie-de-vivre of a few months before had gone, there 
were few dancers on the floor. 

I remembered what Henri Bernstein, the famous 
French playwright, had said to me one evening at 
Luna Park in the spring. We had been discussing 
the mania for the Tango, and the absurd way in 
which it had gripped Paris. 

“Ah, madame, I do not like it. People always feel 
this mad impulse to dance all day and all night just 
on the eve of a war." 

I laughed at the idea, for any possibility of 

209 


O 



210 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

France going to war at that time seemed utterly unlik ely. 
He shook his head sadly as he watched the couples 
dancing, 

"You will see. We shall have a war before this 
time next year." 

I often thought of his prophecy as I went in the 
new saddened city which Paris had become. The 
streets were full of women dressed in black ; the 
churches were crowded all day long. Young and old, 
rich and poor sought to find comfort in prayer ; people 
who had never been in a church for years spent hours 
there during the day ; the altars blazed in the light 
of thousands of candles, queues of silent men and women 
waited their turn at dim confessional boxes, there were 
so many communicants at the early Masses that the 
clergy could scarcely cope with them all. 

The shops were almost deserted, everybody was 
too busy doing some sort of war work to want to buy 
clothes, and for the first time in a century the Parisienne 
was almost indifferent as to what she wore. The 
women whose leisure hours had been pleasantly filled 
with doing delicate embroidery on silk and chiffon 
underclothes now worked till their fingers were 
roughened and blistered making bandages. 

I wanted to take up some war work myself, but 
here my fellow directors of Lucile's stepped in. The 
Paris branch, they told me, was only being kept on its 
feet with the utmost difficulty, since its turnover had 
dwindled to a fraction of the pre-War figures. If it 
became necessary to close it the staff who had worked 
there for years would have to be disbanded, a real 
tragedy for them, and the French Government was 
issuing appeals to all employers to do their utmost 
from patriotic reasons to keep as many people in work 
as possible. 

Obviously we could not continue to run the branch 
at a loss, and there was only one alternative to dosing 




A ‘‘MANNEQUIN" PARADE IN 1913 
in the garden at laicile’s, 23. Hanover Square 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS ail 

it altogether, and this was to make the New York 
branch carry it on its shoulders* America was far 
removed from the War, and at this time was feeling 
little of its effects, so trade was still booming in New 
York and there was no reason why the branch there 
should not have its profits sufficiently increased to 
bear the losses of the house in Paris. This plan, they 
assured me, could only be possible if I would myself 
go out to New York to work up the business there. 

So rather reluctantly, for I felt like a deserter, 
although I saw the wisdom of the plan, I sailed for 
New York with my mannequins and a collection of 
the newest models. 

If I had expected to leave the War behind me when 
I stepped off the boat I was very much mistaken. 
Although America was far enough from the events 
which were convulsing the whole of Europe, and was 
at that time taking no active part in them, the entire 
country was seething with excitement. Nobody talked 
of anything but the War and the chances of the United 
States coming into it ; everywhere one went one 
heard of people who were leaving for the front to 
help in the various voluntary Red Cross units which 
were being staffed and equipped by wealthy New 
Yorkers, and from the Four Hundred to small towns 
in the Middle West every woman who could use a 
needle or wind a skein of wool was turning out socks 
and shirts by the hundred. Never a week passed with- 
out some entertainment being organized in aid of a 
War charity, and thousands of pounds were raised for 
Belgian refugees and other sufferers. 

Meanwhile the country was rent with argument 
between the pro- German and the pro- Allies. Natur- 
ally the latter far outnumbered their opponents, but 
there was considerable bitterness on both sides. You 
never knew when you were going to be involved in 
a quarrel. You would go out to a dinner-party and 



, 2X3 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

find your neighbour on one side chafing at the delay 
which was keeping America back from entering the 
War,, while on the other side would be a man who 
made no secret of his pro-German sympathies. 

I remember going once to a very smart studio 
party in New York and being introduced to a man 
whom I was given to understand was a Swede. He 
was a handsome man with a small, pointed beard and 
a very cultured and pleasant way of talking English. 
We talked together nearly all the evening and I thought 
him one of the most fascinating conversationalists I 
had ever come across. Towards the end of the evening 
I realized that he was putting up a very unostentatious 
but very insistent propaganda for Germany. Almost 
imperceptibly he had led the conversation round to 
the subject of the War, and was stating the case against 
the Allies with such calm superiority that I lost my 
temper. 

“Why, you are an enemy !" I said. “I thought 
Sweden was neutral.*' 

Just as he was beginning to tell me that he was 
not a Swede a woman came up. 

“I heard you both arguing,** she said laughingly 
to me. “Are you not afraid of having your lovely 
house in Paris bombed by the Zeppelins?** 

The fascinating stranger made a low bow. 

“Believe me, it will be my first care to see that 
Madame's house is not bombed,*' he said as he turned 
away. 

“Do you mean to say you did not know whom you 
were talking to ?** said my friend. “Why, that is Herr 
Demberg, the Kaiser's chief propagandist in the 
United States." 

It struck me that Germany showed infinite pains 
in ’the way she organized her propaganda work, and 
infinite patience in the carrying out of it. Here Was 
this man who was at the head of a small army of 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 2IJ 

propagandists in the United States laying himself out 
during a whole evening to win over one woman to the 
German cause* 

I met him at one or two parties after that, for it 
was part of his policy to go out a great deal and mix 
with as many people as he could in a social way. I 
always found him the same, suave and tactful, apparently 
just the successful Jewish business-man he had been 
before he enjoyed the favour of the Kaiser. But he 
did not stand failure well, and as the time went by 
and he met with little success he grew irritable. His 
outburst of temper after the sinking of the Lusitania , 
when he warned the Americans that American ships 
carrying contraband would be treated in like fashion, 
brought about his downfall. He was ridiculed and 
cartooned mercilessly in the Press, and ridicule was 
the one thing which he could not bear, for he was 
like so many Germans — devoid of any sense of humour. 
His dignity collapsed like a pricked bubble, and shortly 
afterwards he applied for a safe-conduct to return to 
Germany. 

Before I had been three months in New York I 
realized that I need have no fears on the score of the 
Paris branch, for the house in New York was literally 
coining money. I had never hoped for such a success 
in my rosiest dreams. The wealthy New York women 
almost received me with open arms, for they were 
delighted at the prospect of having me there to design 
for them in person. Practically no models were coming 
into the country from Paris, for apart from the fact 
that most of the French firms were in a bad way, 
and feeling the effect of the War as my own branch 
of Lucile's had done, transport was so uncertain and 
difficult, and the insurance against enemy submarines 
was such an expensive item that the great houses 
had to abandon the idea of exporting their dresses 
in any quantity. Without the lead of Paris, New York 



214 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

was lost sartorially, for the American designers were 
not equal to the occasion, and were turning out some 
frightful garments. (It is only fair to say that they 
have improved enormously since those days, and New 
York and Hollywood have now some brilliant designers.) 

So I became an institution, the established leader 
of the fashions in America, and so many orders poured 
in that even with the aid of four assistant designers, 
Robert Kalloch, Shirley Barker, Howard Greer, and 
Gilbert Clarke, we could only keep pace with them 
with the greatest difficulty. 

The mannequin parades got so crowded that it 
became impossible to hold them in the house and I 
used to hire a theatre for several afternoons in the 
week, when I brought out my new spring and autumn 
collections and showed the models to audiences of 
two and three thousand. 

To one of these parades came that maker of stars, 
Florenz Ziegfeld. He sat there in the stalls, a quiet 
man among the wives and daughters of the Four 
Hundred. He sat there and saw the curtain go up 
on a scene which might have come out of the Arabian 
Nights. Dolores, a wonderful and magnificent Dolores, 
in an Eastern gown of brocade sheathing her slim 
figure, glimmering like an opal with every movement, 
walked slowly across the stage, turned this way and 
that, her incomparable head held disdainfully high, 
and disappeared through the curtains. Hebe and 
Phyllis and Florence followed her, a lovely trio dressed 
in walking suits, parasols in their hands, the smart 
little hat of the moment set at precisely the proper 
angle on their heads. 

So the parade went on, three hours of it, morning 
dresses, tea-gowns, nightdresses covered with exotic 
boudoir wraps, afternoon dresses for garden parties, 
evening dresses that made the women in the stalls 
give little cries of admiration. 




DOLORES 

"Ziegfeld. Follie” Dress in 1916 in New York 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 315 

And Mr* Ziegfeld sat it all out to the end* 

Afterwards I was told a gentleman wanted to speak 
to me. It was Florenz Ziegfeld. 

"I have got to have that scene of yours for my 
Follies,” he began without preliminary* "You can 
ask what terms you like for it. It is going to be the 
biggest draw I have staged for years. That girl 
Dolores is marvellous, she will be the sensation of 
New York.” 

So the scene was transferred to the Ziegfeld Follies, 
and the gilded youth of New York saw Dolores walk 
across the stage as Mr. Ziegfeld had seen her, and, as 
he had predicted, went mad about her. The whole 
of New York paid homage to her beauty, Dolores was 
feted and worshipped as though she had been a queen. 

But she never came back to the showroom again, 
for her days as a mannequin were over. Florenz 
Ziegfeld came to me and asked me to release her from 
her engagement with me, so that he might have her 
permanently for his Follies. Naturally I consented, 
although I was very sorry to lose her, for she was the 
best mannequin I have ever had. 

So Dolores, who had once been a little unknown 
business girl and earned a few shillings a week, became 
a celebrity, and in due time married the fairy prince, 
or rather an American millionaire, which is much more 
practical in these days of impoverished royalty. 

After that I dressed many of Florenz Ziegfeld’s 
productions, and found him delightful to work with. 
He is the most patient and the most considerate pro- 
ducer, never loses his temper no matter what happens, 
and treats every member of the chorus as politely as 
though she were a peeress in her own right. I never 
heard him once shout out an order at rehearsals, 
although his quiet voice was always heard giving 
directions. 

That first little scene of mine which Ziegfeld 



216 discretions and indiscretions 

introduced into his Follies made theatrical history in 
one sense, for it introduced “the show girl”, who was 
there simply to look beautiful and wear beautiful 
clothes, as opposed to the chorus girl, who was there 
to sing and dance and generally hold the show together. 
The show girl reached the zenith of her pop ular ity 
in the War and just after it, and it is, I think, a sign 
of our waning interest in clothes that she is grad ual ly 
disappearing from revue. 

Whenever I dressed a scene for Ziegfeld, I used to 
quarrel with Joseph Urban, his aide-de-camp, over the 
question of the lighting. He had, to my mind, an 
unaccountable partiality for yellow lights, which I 
always thought spoilt the effect of my dresses, although 
they might be wonderful in other scenes. So I used to 
clamour for blue lights as background with a white 
“flood” on each dress as it appeared, and he used to tell 
me I would have to put up with his setting. But it 
always ended the same way. On the day of the dress- 
rehearsal Urban used to come to me and say sulkily : 

“Very well, have it your own way,” and I did. 

Notwithstanding our little disputes we were excel- 
lent friends, and I had the greatest admiration for his 
art. His settings are, I consider, unrivalled anywhere. 

It was through Ziegfeld that I came to dress the 
most talked of girl in America, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, 
for he sent her to me when she was appearing in his 
productions. She was not, I thought, half so beautiful 
as Lilyan Tashman, now a film star, but she had a 
lovely figure. She had an extraordinary fascination 
for men. I remember that she once told me that she 
had been engaged to twenty-five different men in one 
year. 

She and all the other Follies girls used to take 
endless pains with their figures. They were all care- 
fully weighed every week and even the increase of 
half a pound was noted and they were told that they 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 2X7 

must take it off. Many of them lived a life of rigid 
self-discipline, so many hours of exercise each day, so 
many hours of massage with special reducing cream, 
and only a very limited diet. If the scales recorded 
a too rapid gain they would go on a diet of milk and 
boiled potatoes for days together. This was the 
favourite reducing diet in America in those days, but 
there were other far more strenuous ones. Pauline 
Frederick, for whom I made several dresses, once 
told me that she had lived for an entire fortnight on 
black coffee when she wanted to reduce quickly for 
one of her films. She gained her object for she took 
off two stones, but she nearly ruined her health in 
doing it. 

One of the women for whom I enjoyed designing 
most of all was Irene Vernon Castle, for she was so 
graceful and wears her clothes so beautifully. 

When she was appearing in Watch Your Step she 
wrote asking me to design a dancing dress for her. She 
and her husband were then at the very height of their 
popularity in New York, and earning fabulous salaries. 
I invited her to lunch with me so that I could get an 
impression of her personality. I thought I had never 
seen a more exquisite woman, and she was so simple 
and unspoilt by success. 

Half-way through lunch I said to her : 

“I feel sure this is not our first meeting, but I 
cannot remember where I have seen you before.” 

And although the faint recollection puzzled me 
I could not place her definitely in my memory. ' Then 
we began to talk about Paris, and I knew at once. 
The first time I had seen the Vernon Castles dance was 
in Paris before the War. They had appeared at the 
Cafe de Paris there. 

She remembered at once when I reminded her of it. 

“We never thought we would do well in those 
days,” she told me. “We were both desperately poor. 



318 discretions and indiscretions 

and hardly earned anything. We had to simply beg 
the manager of the Cafe de Paris to take us on there, 
because another manager had let us down and we were 
reduced to our last ten francs. In the end, although 
he was plainly far from being enthusiastic, the man- 
ager agreed to give us a week's trial. Mercifully we 
were a great success and from that time we never looked 
back." 

All through lunch we talked about her dogs and 
the house which she and her husband had just taken, 
and her new dances, but we never mentioned clothes 
until she got up to go. 

“Good heavens !" she said. “I came here especi- 
ally to discuss the dresses I wanted you to make for 
me, and we have never even mentioned them I" 

“That was just what I wanted," I answered. “Leave 
it to me and I know I can design you something 
beautiful." 

So I shut myself up in my studio and I made her 
the three dresses which were to become famous all 
over the States and in Europe as well, for they had 
such an instantaneous success in New York that I 
sent copies of them to Hanover Square and the Rue 
de Penthievres. 

One was in cloudy chiffon, thirty yards round the 
hem, a lovely, misty blue. I called it “Love in the 
Mist", for it looked just like that flower. Another was 
a period dress with a hooped skirt, which swung to 
and fro when she danced. They set a fashion which 
was followed by two-thirds of the women in America, 
but they did more than that. Irene Castle and the 
dresses I designed her brought in a new type in 
women's beauty. She was the first of the moderns. 
Her slim, almost boyish figure and her sleek, bobbed 
head (her hair had originally been cut off after an 
illness, and she always kept it short afterwards), set a 
new standard which other women imitated. It started 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 319 

in New York and spread to Europe, and soon the 
coiffeurs were working double time cutting off curls 
and chignons, doing away with hideous pads and 
atrocious side-combs, and turning out a procession 
of other sleek, bobbed heads to follow in the wake 
of Irene Vernon Castle* 

As for the dresses I designed her they have never 
really gone out of fashion, any one of them could 
be worn to-day. I recognized that she was an unusual 
type when she came to me all those years ago, and I 
knew instinctively that hers was the accepted type 
which the fashions of the next ten or fifteen years 
would follow, so I anticipated them a little. I designed 
her dresses which stressed the importance of line, 
the tight little bodice of chiffon with the cowl collar, 
which is so popular to-day, and the full skirt fitting 
closely over the hips, and billowing out into wide 
godet below the knees. 

One morning Lily Langtry came to see me at my 
studio. She was appearing in a play in New York, 
and wanted me to design her a dress. I was delighted 
to see her, for it was many years since our paths had 
crossed and I had not designed her any clothes since 
those early days in Hanover Square when my first 
fashion parades had created such a sensation. 

She Wanted, she told me, a dress as like the one I 
had designed for Irene Vernon Castle as possible. I 
looked at her and wondered what in the world I could 
say to dissuade her from having the very last dress 
she ought to wear. Irene Castle's dress, which was 
the very incarnation of youth and slenderness, would 
have been a travesty on Lily Langtry who, beautiful 
as she still was, belonged to another generation. 

I told her as tactfully as I could that I thought the 
dress would not suit her as well as some others I was 
designing, for it was essentially a dancer's dress and 
was intended for someone very slim. I should prefer 



220 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

something more dignified for her, and suggested a 
m adonna blue satin which I thought would set off her 
blue eyes and clear skin to perfection* 

She did not seem very enthusiastic about it, but 
let me make it for her* When it was finished she put 
it on and stood before the glass. I saw the tears were 
running down her cheeks* 

“It makes me look old," she said with a smile that 
was somehow infinitely pathetic. 

“Then you shall not have it if it makes you unhappy," 
I said at once* “Never mind, I will take it back and 
sell it to somebody else." 

So I took back the dress and she got another 
designer to make her a litde chiffon frock, which if 
she had only believed it, made her look far, far older 
than the one I had designed for her* But in spite of 
this little incident we became firm friends, and used 
to see a great deal of one another* 

She used to talk to me about her life and tell me 
of her past love affairs, and I enjoyed listening to her, 
for she could be delightfully witty and entertaining 
when she chose. 

Once I remember when she was speaking of the 
success she had had in her life she said : 

“I was lucky because I was born just at the right 
time for my particular temperament* When I was 
a young woman all my contemporaries were so dread- 
fully strict and goody-goody ; no make-up, none of 
the little vanities everyone takes as a matter of course 
now ; no dancing with the same man more than twice 
in an evening, unless he was your husband or fiance, 
no going out with a man unless you were heavily 
chaperoned ; and a whole set of laws of the Medes and 
Persians. So you see the men were all tremendously 
intrigued with me, I was such a reaction from the 
women they were accustomed to. I was thought so 
* daring* because I broke through a lot of silly 




PHYLLIS 

in a dress designed and made at my studio, 160 Fifth Avenue, New York, 
for the Ziegfeld 1916 Follies 


[220 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 221 

conventions* People have sometimes believed I did so 
well because I always said "yes' to men, whereas it 
was really because all the other women said *noV' 

Those were happy days in New York, although 
I worked harder than I ever worked in my life* I 
was designing for all Ziegfeld's productions, and for 
most of the well-known film stars as well. I would 
go to the studio in the morning and find a note from 
Ziegfeld saying he wanted sixty dresses for his new 
show, and would I please let him have them in ten 
days* There would be a frenzied consultation, and 
a hurried telephoning in all directions, but in less 
than an hour the work would have been begun. 

Later in the day would come a cable from the 
house in Hanover Square. Would I please send over 
a new collection of models ? And I would start plan- 
ning and scheming, and deciding what would make 
the most appeal to the taste of War-time London. 
Half-way through it I would remember that there 
was a thirty thousand dollar wedding order for the 
daughter of a Chicago millionaire waiting to be put 
through, and there would be more hurried consul- 
tations and more telephoning, but somehow or other 
it would all be done, and by the end of the day I would 
be driving back to the beautiful house I had taken 
at Marmaronac, on the Sound, with the pleasant 
consciousness that I had not only saved the Paris 
branch but that I was making a small fortune. 



CHAPTER NINETEEN 


T HESE War-time years in New York were so 
crowded that looking back on them is like turning 
over the leaves of an album of pictures ; happy pic- 
tures of wonderful parties I used to give in my home 
on the Sound, when I would fill in with artists, musicians 
and writers, and there would be bathing by moonlight 
and dancing on the lawns afterwards ; sad pictures of 
bidding good-bye to one after another of those light- 
hearted boys who hailed America's entry into the War 
as a joyous adventure and came so proudly to show 
their brand-new uniforms before sailing for Europe ; 
pictures of visiting hospitals, trying to comfort tragic 
wrecks of men : pictures of going down into my 
studio, told that a client had called and finding instead 
of a woman come to choose dresses, a woman heart- 
broken at the news of the loss of a husband or son, 
who had rushed to me in her longing for sympathy. 

A dressmaker is every woman's confidante and 
during those days I was continually on the rack of 
other people's griefs. Sometimes I would go to one 
of the hospitals to sit in a corridor smelling of anti- 
septics, holding the trembling hand of some woman 
who knew that behind one of the closed doors her 
husband's life depended on the success of the operation 
the surgeons were performing. Once I had to break 
to a man the news that he would never see again. The 
tears were running down my cheeks, but his wife 
had implored me to do it. 

“You always manage to make people see the funny 
side of things," she said. “He would take it better 
from you than from anyone." 

Then there were the little comedies of the Wan 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 333 

Once I remember a husband invalided out of the 
War, and returned home sooner than he was expected 
was told that his wife was at my studio- In a few 
minutes he was round there and dashed into the fitting- 
room- The joy of the meeting made them forget 
everything but each other- The wife flung on her 
coat and hat, and they went out together, clinging 
to one another's arms and laughing like children- In 
a minute they were back. The lady had completely 
forgotten that she had been in the midst of a fitting 
when her husband had arrived, and until they had 
been stopped by a scandalized commissionaire neither 
had realized that she was walking down the street in 
a short jacket and a pair of georgette camiknickers- 

During the short months that America was at 
war there was no wave of economy, at least in the 
matter of clothes, such as there was in both London 
and Paris- The dresses had never been so elaborate, 
the prices never so high ; feminine New York would 
pay anything in the world to be well-dressed. 

As an instance of this I remember the wedding of 
one millionaire's daughter- The family was new-rich, 
and the mother had heard of Lady Duff Gordon and 
was determined that nobody else should design her 
daughter's trousseau. She sent a message as k ing for 
an appointment, and saying that she would call at 
my studio during the week-end as she was particularly 
anxious to get the work started. 

At that time I was feeling very tired and run down, 
for I had been overworking for months, and I had gone 
to my house on the Sound for a week's rest. I tele- 
phoned to my secretary at the studio saying that it 
would be utterly impossible for me to see the lady 
during the week-end, and that she must either let 
one of my assistant designers begin with the arrange- 
ments for the trousseau, or wait until I could come 
back to New York myself. 



234 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

A few hours later an urgent telephone message 
came from the studio* The lady had called there and 
said that she must see me at all costs, she was prepared 
to pay any extra fee that I asked for a personal con- 
sultation, 

"I am not going to be disturbed this week-end/' 
I answered. “You can tell her that nothing less than 
five thousand dollars will tempt me back to New York 
during this heat." 

To my amazement the message came back that the 
lady had handed my secretary a cheque for five 
thousand dollars. 

Rather than have the trivial disappointment of not 
seeing me on the day she had fixed for the consultation, 
she had been perfectly willing to pay the equivalent of 
a thousand pounds ! 

I took the cheque, went back to Town and began 
on the trousseau immediately. Before it was finished 
it had cost something under thirty thousand dollars. 
The wedding dress alone, which was sewn with pearls, 
cost six hundred pounds, the veil of old lace another 
hundred and fifty. 

But although I often got “money for jam", the 
current phrase in New York, in this way, I often 
permitted myself the luxury of working simply for the 
joy of making something beautiful. In that I suppose 
I was rather like an artist who varies his prices accord- 
ing to his sitters. I made dresses for practically nothing 
for girls who were on the stage and could not afford 
high prices. I have always had rather a soft spot for 
the girl who has to earn her own living, probably 
because I have always earned mine, and I used to feel 
amply rewarded when one of them would, come to 
me and say t 

“You know I got that engagement through the 
dress you made for me." 

In America it is a tragedy quite out of all proper- 




PHYLLIS 

in the Wedding Gown for which I got the £1000 cheque for coming into 
New York to design it 


[334 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 225 

tion for a woman to be shabby, for nearly all doors 
are closed to her. The working girls in New York 
would literally starve themselves rather than go to 
interview prospective employers in shoes that look 
anything but new, and gloves which are not immacu- 
late. Almost unconsciously a woman is judged by how 
she looks in New York, and the general standard is 
much higher than it is anywhere else. There every 
business girl is perfectly soignee, her nails are beauti- 
fully kept, her blouse or muslin collar looks as though 
it has just been turned out by a French laundry, 
although the probability is that it has been washed and 
ironed in the back kitchen, and her hair is done in the 
latest fashion, even though she has had to sacrifice her 
lunch on two days of the week to pay the coiffeur. 

The American business girl's wardrobe is a matter 
of anxious thought and careful planning. Her clothes 
must look new at all costs ; they may be cheap and 
shoddy but they must not have the least sign of wear. 
So the multitude of pay-on-instalment shops cater for 
her specially. Each week she is paying so much for her 
dress, so much for her shoes, so much for the coat 
she bought last spring; it is such a customary pro- 
ceeding that it does not worry her that she is scarcely 
ever out of debt, she cheerfully orders a new winter 
coat while she is still paying the instalment on the last. 

Many times I played fairy godmother to some girl 
on the stage who had youth and beauty and talent but 
no money. Tentatively she would ask me if she might 
“pay on instalment". 

“No, I never do that," I would tell her, “but I will 
make you a dress for nothing." 

Dressed in it she used to face agents and managers 
with new courage, and very often got a job. 

One lovely afternoon in late spring I was hard at 
work in my studio when I was told that Miss Pickford 
wanted to see me. The name conveyed nothing to me, 



326 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

and I was rather annoyed at the interruption ; however 
I gave orders for her to be admitted. 

There walked into the room a picturesque little 
figure so tiny and childlike in appearance that for a 
moment I thought it was a little girl dressed up in her 
mother's clothes. Her shining golden hair fell in long 
curls round her face, her pink and white skin, which 
was quite innocent of make-up, had the transparent 
bloom of a child's and her hazel eyes had the wide 
gaze one generally notices in children. 

“You don't know me, of course," she said coming 
forward, “I'm Mary Pickford." 

She told me that she had come from Hollywood to 
New York on purpose to consult me, as she wanted 
some dresses designed by me for her next film. 

“I'm not going to tell anyone I'm here," she 
explained. “I have managed to give all the reporters 
the slip, and Mother and I are going to stay at quite a 
small hotel so that we can go out shopping without 
anyone knowing who we are." 

She was as excited as a child over the prospect of 
her new clothes and begged me to sketch her something 
immediately. It was not a very easy matter because 
she was so petite that ordinary fashions looked absurdly 
incongruous on her ; furs almost smothered her, and 
even the long dresses with trains, which everyone was 
wearing for evening at that time, made her look smaller 
than ever. 

“What I really ought to put you in," I told her, “is 
a little white, muslin frock with a blue sash and strapped 
shoes and socks. I don't know how in the world I am 
ever going to make you look grown-up." 

In the end we found a compromise between her 
own particular type and the prevailing line, and I 
designed her several dresses. We got to know one 
another well during the process, and I think she enjoyed 
her visits to the studio as much as I did. I found her 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 227 

as artless and charming in everyday life as she was on 
the screen* 

Her tremendous vitality made her a delightful 
companion. She had such a spontaneous enjoyment in 
everything she did. She was absolutely free from any 
of the affectations and poses which get grafted on to 
most film stars, and never suffered from attacks of 
artistic temperament. Under her golden curls she had 
a lot of practical common sense, and no business 
magnate could have had a keener judgment or a sounder 
grasp of affairs. In her early twenties she was producing 
her own films. She was very generous and did not 
mind spending money, but she was not extravagant, 
certainly not by Hollywood standards, and she told 
me that she always saved a large proportion of her 
income. 

“I have no illusions about my own future,” she 
once said to me in her sensible, matter-of-fact voice. 
“I can't always stay a little girl, and I don't see myself 
playing other parts, or at least not with the same 
success. That is why I am careful to put money by 
for a rainy day.'' 

I never knew anyone so full of joie-de-vivre ; she 
was so interested in everything she did that she made 
others interested ; one could never have a boring 
moment in her society. When she came to be fitted 
she would bring something of her own radiant happi- 
ness into the studio ; she would flit about the room 
like a bird, draping herself in the materials, trying out 
new dancing steps, bubbling over with animation all 
the while. 

I remember one lunch I had with her, and how 
much she made me enjoy it. Yet she talked about 
nothing in particular ; we discussed her new dresses, 
and the puppy somebody had given her ; she told me 
of its droll attempts to learn tricks, and the collar and 
lead she had bought for it, in fact all sorts of trivialities . 



2 Z 8 discretions and indiscretions 

yet I came away with the impression that I had ta ken 
part in a most interesting conversation. What she had 
talked about had interested her, she had taken for 
granted that it would amuse me, and consequently it 
had. 

At the time I met her she was an ardent believer 
in the New Thought movement which was gaining so 
many followers in America. She told me that if she 
ever wanted anything to happen she always made a 
mental picture of it and concentrated on it. No matter 
how many discouragements she met with, and how 
impossible her wish seemed, she always kept the picture 
steadily in her mind. She believed that this system 
always brought about what she wanted. 

She laughed over the example she gave me. When 
she and her sister had been poor and unknown in New 
York both of them had longed ardently for a motor, 
but as they were the children of humble parents there 
did not seem much likelihood of their ambition ever 
being realized. To console themselves the two little 
girls used to play what they called "the limousine 
game” every day. Mary, as the imaginary owner of 
the car which grew more luxurious with every flight of 
imagination, would solemnly go through the panto- 
mime of getting into it (the car being represented by 
four chairs placed back to back), while her sister, in 
the role of footman, spread an imaginary rug over her, 
and made a great show of opening the door. 

We were sitting in her beautiful Rolls-Royce when 
she told me this little story, and she laughed as she 
leant back among the cushions. 

"You see I have got the car now,” she concluded. 
"I know that it is not a very good illustration of my 
theory because we were only children at the time, but 
die principle is the same. We made bur mental picture 
and we got our wish.” , 

When America came into the War Mary Pickford 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 239 

raised hundreds of thousands of pounds towards the 
War Loan. She toured all over the States addressing 
mass meetings, selling Liberty Bonds. Nobody could 
resist the claims of patriotism when they were put 
forward by "the world’s sweetheart”, and her wide- 
opened hazel eyes were guaranteed to make even the 
most hard-headed business man part with his money. 

I designed her a special dress to wear on this tour; 
it was in khaki-coloured cloth, and had a semi-military 
cut, which was both apt and becoming. It certainly 
served its purpose, for Mary and the dress used to 
draw subscriptions of four and five million dollars at a 
single bid in most of the big towns she visited. 

Turning the leaves of my picture-album again I see 
the portrait of Billie Sunday. 

Billie Sunday was one of those amazing revivalists 
who every now and then arise in America. When I 
first heard of him he was converting thousands of New 
Yorkers from the Four Hundred down to the steve- 
dores and labourers who used to throng his meetings. 
Society, at first inclined to scoff, was confounded when 
the Rockefellers joined the ranks of his supporters and 
built him a wooden tabernacle on Riverside Drive. 

Twenty thousand people used to attend his meetings 
on Sunday nights, and there would be extraordinary 
scenes of fervour which culminated in a sort of religious 
fervour. Women would tear their jewels off and throw 
them on the floor and there would be four or five 
hundred penitents, many of them in evening dress, 
kneeling at the benches at the end of the service. 

I heard stories of these meetings and was filled 
with curiosity to get to know the man whose personality 
had lit. this flame of revival throughout the States, 
especially as I was told he was very attractive and not 
at all sanctimonious to talk to. 

Eventually I got a doctor of my acquaintance, who 
knew him personally, to promise to introduce him to 



330 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

me. I was invited to come to the following Sunday's 
meeting, and, to my surprise, was given a seat on the 
platform between Rockefeller and the revivalist's wife* 
Mrs* Sunday was quite different from what I had 
imagined the wife of such a man would look like* She 
was very smartly dressed in the latest fashion, and had 
the right shade in powder and lipstick. 

I never saw anything so marvellously staged as that 
meeting. It was a triumph in atmosphere* The vast 
crowds were worked up to fever pitch long before 
Billie Sunday appeared on the platform* They began 
by singing hymns, softly at first, then in a rising tide, 
broken by cries of "Hallelujah", until the whole audience 
was rocking and swaying in time to the music, which 
was provided by two pianos played by men who might 
have been celebrated pianists* First one would take up 
the melody, then the other, and the harmonies they 
introduced made even the most hackneyed hymn tunes 
sound wonderful. Then a man, who was greeted with 
rapturous cries of "Roddy” (I never knew his real 
name), took his place on the platform. He was an 
extraordinarily eloquent preacher, and soon the enor- 
mous hall seemed full of cries and groans of penitence. 
Then there was again singing, with the singers growing 
more emotional every minute, and finally, in a hush in 
which you could have heard the proverbial pin drop, 
Billie Sunday walked on to the platform. 

I watched him take command over those thousands 
of people and wondered what his secret power was 
until I heard him speak. He was a clean-shaven man 
of, I should think, about forty-five, not very handsome, 
but with a thoroughly pleasant face and a humorous 
mouth. He had an exceptionally fine figure, which he 
made the most of, for his dothes were of the very 
latest cut. I was told that they were very expensive 
and were all made by the best English tailor in New 
York. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 231 

His voice was very deep and not particularly musical, 
but in listening to him I realized his magnetic force. 
The men and women, who were hanging on his words, 
were being converted by the man himself, not by his 
arguments. I am not suggesting that Billie Sunday 
was a humbug, but I think that had he chosen to 
lecture on politics, or on anything else, the results 
would have been much the same. 

I have never heard anything like his sermon ; it was 
amazing. His words shot out at extraordinary speed, 
tumbli ng one after the other, but every syllable distinct, 
homely phrases whose very simplicity lent them a 
rough eloquence. He never seemed to stand still for 
two seconds, for he emphasized all his points with 
rapid movements of his lithe, athletic figure, throwing 
out first one arm, then the other, turning from side to 
side, dropping suddenly to his knees and springing up 
again. Twenty years before he had been one of the 
best baseball players in America, earning an enormous 
salary which he gave up to take a small post in the 
Y.M.C.A, so that he could study to be a preacher, and 
somehow he brought a suggestion of the playing field 
to the platform. When he flung back his head and 
denounced the evils of strong drink one had the impres- 
sion of a baseball player tackling a tangible opponent. 

I met him several times socially after that, for he 
became one of the lions of New York and society 
hostesses used to vie with one another to attract him 
to their parties. Revivals came into fashion, and it 
was considered more chic to entertain your guests with 
a little after-dinner preaching than with music. Popular 
preachers used to stride into the houses of the “Four 
Hundred”, accuse them of dark sins to their faces ♦ ♦ ♦ 
and be asked to come again. 

I turn over the album again and see “Fleurette”. 
Fleurette was a little French girl, a little peasant of the 
devastated regions. I do not know what has become of 



232 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

her j probably she stayed in her village and mar ried 
some sturdy young peasant, and is the mother of other 
Fleurettes ; or perhaps she went back to Paris, back to 
the atelier and the mannequins ; maybe she is still 
showing dresses to rich Americans in the Rue de la 
Paix. 

I am sure she never knew that her name was to 
become famous all over America, and I do not sup- 
pose she knows it still, unless they have told her in 
Peronne. 

It happened like this. 

In 1917 my sister, Elinor Glyn, who was doing 
War work in devastated France, wrote to me of how 
she had come across Peronne, laid waste by the Germans. 
At first sight, she said, her fellow-workers had believed 
the place deserted, for there was not a sign of any 
living soul. Then they had found a miserable cellar, 
which was occupied by a family whose only refuge it 
had been for many weeks. 

They had been pathetically grateful for the food 
which their rescuers distributed to them, and had sat 
down to enjoy the first good meal they had had for 
days ... all but Fleurette. 

Fleurette lay stretched out on a sack in one corner, 
regardless of the savoury odours around her. She was 
so sound asleep that the peasants had to shake her to 
arouse her. Stumbling to her feet, she murmured : 

“Oh, why did you wake me ? I was having such a 
lovely dream/* 

She was such a beautiful girl that my sister was 
interested in her. She asked her how she had come to 
be there, and was told that when War broke out 
Fleurette, who was a mannequin in Paris, had been on 
a visit to her parents at Peronne, and had remained 
with than ever since, sharing their hardships and 
privations, -finally taking refuge with them in the old 
cellar. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 333 

Fleurette's little story took hold of my imagination. 
It was the story of so many others in suffering France ; 
I could see that group of refugees huddled together in 
the cellar, fearing that every screaming enemy shell 
would wreck their frail hiding-place ; I could guess how 
poor Fleurette must have longed for the peace and 
comfort of the showroom in the Rue de la Paix ; and 
the feel of beautiful silks and chiffons on her tired body 
instead of the dirty rags which were all that was left of 
her own clothes. 

I wrote to my sister : “Can't I do something ?" 

Elinor Glyn was Vice-President of the Secours 
Franco-Americain Pour la France Devastee, the organ- 
ization which was helping hundreds of refugees. She 
was delighted at my proffered help, and begged me to 
raise some money for her work ; she suggested that I 
should arrange a series of concerts or theatrical per- 
formances in America. 

I thought over all sorts of schemes. New York was 
having a glut of charity shows at that time, plays, 
concerts, tableaux, they had all been given again and 
again, until even their most ardent supporters were 
growing weary. If I were to have any success I must 
think of something original. 

- An idea came to me. Why not make Fleurette and 
her misfortunes tell their story, let her plead for 
herself? 

Round the theme of the little mannequin dreaming 
in her cellar I wove a pantomime consisting of a pro- 
logue and eight scenes, set to music. 

The prologue showed the cellar, where the miserable 
refugees waited in terror for the bombardment to 
begin, and where Fleurette slept upon her pile of sacks, 
unconscious of her surroundings, dreaming of her 
beloved Paris, and of beautiful clothes she had seen in 
happier times. I adapted each little scene from the 
sort of dream I imagined that any mannequin might 



234 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

have ; a background of leisure and elegance with 
herself as the central figure, wearing the wonderful 
dresses she had so often displayed to others* 

I showed Fleurette, a glorified Fleurette in my 
latest creations, having petit dejeuner ; going for a 
walk with her friend Dolores ; choosing new dresses 
at a grande couturiere’s ; going to a dance ; giving a 
party at her own house . ♦ . and so on. The final 
scene showed the poor little girl back again in her 
cellar waking to realities, while the enemy shells 
screamed overhead. 

It was only a simple plot, but I dressed and staged 
it perfectly. Each was an exquisite cameo ; I blended 
my colours as an artist mixes his paints. I was not 
trying to sell my models, for I did not have to keep 
before me the consideration of what was suitable to 
present-day life. I was staging my own production to 
please myself and at the same time raise money for the 
French devastated areas. So I could afford to let my 
imagination run riot in wonderful colours and lines 
whose symmetry was, I felt, worthy of the old Greek 
ideals. I know now that it was the most beautiful thing 
I ever created in my life's work. I called it Fleurette* s 
Dream in Perorme . 

My caste was recruited from my own mannequins, 
who were famous for their beauty even in New York, 
where the standard is perhaps the highest in the world. 
Phyllis Francatelli, sister of my secretary, and a born 
mannequin, played the part of Fleurette. 

I had one of the best coaches in New York to give 
them lessons, while I supervised all the details of 
costumes and lighting. 

Then I hired the Little Theatre for a matinee, and 
sent out invitations with an intimation that there would 
be a charge of not less than five dollars for each seat 
in aid of the Secours Franco- Americain Pour la France 
Devastee. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 235 

The theatre was crowded. New York had heard of 
Fleurette and was full of curiosity to see her ; Ziegfeld 
had sold hundreds of tickets for us, I had accounted 
for the rest. 

Just before the show opened I walked on to the 
stage to make an appeal on behalf of the charity, and 
explain the story of how my little fantasy came to be 
written. 



CHAPTER TWENTY 


I WAS accompanied by my Chow, Mahmud. 

I feel that really I ought to have devoted a whole 
chapter to this staid Chinese gentleman ; he certainly 
deserves it. I can recall so many stories of him, each 
of them an epic, at least to dog lovers. However, I 
must content myself with a few lines of tribute to his 
memory. 

He wore his laurels (none too modestly it must be 
admitted) in his lifetime, and died a peaceful death at 
the ripe age of twelve, with his paw in the hand of my 
prettiest mannequin ; and could any dog ask more ? 
Certainly not Mahmud, for he had the true Eastern 
spirit of philosophy, allied to an air of calm dignity, 
and unruffled contempt for strangers. Mahmud was 
never involved in a fight, he never lost his temper, he 
left that for dogs of lesser breed. When they turned 
upon him he simply walked disdainfully away ; perhaps 
because his consciousness of superiority made him 
immune to the sneers of the envious. 

Certainly Mahmud had something to pride himself 
upon. Every night for six months he used to trot to 
the centre of a brilliantly lighted stage, there to receive 
the plaudits of the multitude ; round upon round of 
applause for Mahmud and his valorous deeds. It was 
enough to turn any dog's head! I regret to say that 
far from shunning the limelight, as a gentleman and a 
hero should have done, he positively revelled in it, and 
would trot back from the wings to take his curtain 
with a smug, self-satisfied expression. 

Mahmud was a War veteran. When the War broke 
out I gave my car to the French Red Cross in Paris, 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 237 

and with it went Mahmud, then in the flower of his 
youth, and a firm friend of the chauffeur. At first he 
was only the mascot of his depot. He stayed at head- 
quarters, lived on the fat of the land and generally 
enjoyed himself. Then one day the car driven by his 
chauffeur friend did not return. Mahmud pondered 
over it. He had seen the car set out ; obviously cars 
which set out ought to return ; they had always done 
so before. But this car had not returned, and Mahmud 
was distinctly annoyed about it ; he wanted his supper, 
and, more than supper, he wanted his friend. Clearly 
something had to be done about it. Inspiration came 
to him ; he would go out to find the car. 

Everyone was too preoccupied to notice a big, 
brown Chow slip out of the depot, and trot quietly 
along the road he had seen the car take. It was not 
very easy going, for the shells had tom it up time 
and again, but Mahmud avoided the holes with the 
instinct of generations of dogs. As he got nearer to 
the enemy lines the firing began and the racket of heavy 
guns made the air hideous, but Mahmud did not 
worry about them. He had heard too much shell-fire 
to associate it with himself. It was just a harmless 
diversion in which superior, godlike beings indulged 
for some obscure reason of their own. 

Nobody knew how long the journey took him, but 
the Red Cross men who told me the story said that 
his paws were bleeding when he got back to the 
depot hours later, and he could scarcely drag himself 
along. 

Mahmud found his friend lying helpless and badly 
injured by his overturned car, which had been struck 
by part of a shell bursting on the roadway. 

Here was a tragedy which had no parallel in his 
doggy experience. What was to be done? Anxiously 
he licked the face of the wounded man, but a feeble 
movement was his only reward. He tried to drag him 



238 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

along (they found the marks of his strong teeth in the 
coat of the wounded man afterwards), but with no 
success. 

By some process of reasoning he arrived at his 
solution. He would go back to the depot to fetch 
help. 

So down the lonely, shell-swept road he trotted 
once more, covering the miles between his friend and 
the depot slowly and painfully. But he did it. A very 
tired dog limped in and would give nobody any peace 
with his angry barks. They flung something at him ; 
he dodged and continued to bark and run backwards 
and forwards to the door. Then someone remembered 
Mahmud's friend, and went to look for him. It was 
discovered that he was missing. Within a few minutes 
an ambulance was driving over the ground, searching 
for a wounded man. By the driver sat a big, brown 
Chow. Fortunately they were not too late. 

After this episode there was no keeping Mahmud as 
a mascot. Clearly his place was among the saviours of 
mankind. He was promoted to active service. From 
that time on he went out with the Red Cross men, 
searching for the wounded at night, and when finally 
he was returned to me after two years' service he was 
covered with glory. One of the mannequins, who was 
coming over to New York, brought him out to me, and 
he became the greatest pet with all the girls. 

That was the little story I told the crowded house 
at the Little Theatre while Mahmud stood beside me, 
wagging his tail as though he understood every word 
of it. He took the storm of applause that followed 
with complete sang-froid . After shell-fire what could 
hold any terrors for him? 

Mahmud did not finish his War work in France, for 
he helped to raise thousands of dollars for several 
War charities. He began it all by getting, the sympathies 
of the audience at that first matinee. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 339 

Fleurette’s Dream in Peronne had a wonderful 
reception* From the moment that the curtain went up 
on the group of refugees huddled in their cellar, while 
Phyllis as Fleurette, looking almost incredibly lovely, 
slept on her bed of sacks, the audience followed 
scene after scene with rapt attention. One by one 
my mannequins, wearing the dream dresses I had 
designed, were given an ovation. People stood up 
and cheered, and the Four Hundred of which the 
audience was largely composed does not often cheer, 
and rushed out to buy flowers to throw upon the 
stage. 

As the curtain fell for the last time my arm was 
grasped by an eager little man. He was the manager 
who booked the Keith Circuit tours. 

“I must have that act just as it is for the halls/* he 
said. “We will pay you anything in reason, on con- 
dition that you accompany the tour and take your dog 
with you.** 

“How in the world am I going to fit my scenes 
into your variety programmes?" I asked. “Do you 
realize that this has taken two and a half hours ?** 

“Oh, we can manage that/* he assured me. “I will 
speed up your act for you, and condense it all into 
less than thirty minutes.” 

I was rather dismayed at the thought of having 
my beautiful fantasy “speeded up ” ; however there 
was no hope for it, and the result was that before the 
tour began I had learned to show sixty-eight dresses 
in twenty-eight minutes, and this in spite of several 
changes of scenery. 

The Keith Circuit was what we should call “a 
number one** tour in England. It took in all the 
principal towns, with a show every afternoon and night 
and more often than not three shows a day. 

So here was I booked at a salary of £500 a week, 
£300 for the expenses of the “act”, including the 



240 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

girls' salaries, and £ 200 for myself and Mahmud. I 
gave most of mine to various War charities. 

The girls thought it the greatest fun in the world 
to be travelling round the States for the next six months, 
no regular work in the showrooms, nothing to do but 
amuse themselves all day with the novel experience of 
the theatre in the evening, and they were in the highest 
spirits when we started off. 

Our first night was at Washington, and President 
Wilson was in the audience. He came round after- 
wards and congratulated me on what he was kind 
enough to tell me he considered "the best vaudeville 
show he had ever seen". 

Everywhere we met with the greatest appreciation, 
and people went out of their way to welcome us to 
whatever town we happened to be visiting. Once I 
remember we arrived at Cincinnati in a terrific snow- 
storm. All the luggage, or nearly all of it, for we had 
each of us a suitcase, missed the connection at the 
junction, and we were told that it was most improbable 
that we should get it for three or four days, as the lines 
were in such a state. So we were faced with either 
breaking our contract or presenting Fleur ette's Dream 
of beautiful frocks without any beautiful frocks 1 

We were in despair, but there was nothing to be 
done. We held a hurried consultation at my hotel. 
Ruby, who was one of the mannequins and my right 
hand on the tour, ascertained that we had exacdy ten 
of the model dresses with us instead of sixty-eight. 
And the show was due to begin in less than two hours. 
We racked our brains for some way out of the diffi- 
culty. Suddenly I had an inspiration. I rang up a 
local draper and explained our predicament. Could he 
let us have materials so that we could make some sort 
of a fashion parade, and avoid disappointing our 
audience, and incidentally losing a considerable sum 
for the French refugees ? 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 241 

He was kindness itself* Immediately the answer 
came back that we were welcome to anything in his 
shop, and on loan only; he would not even consider 
payment* 

He was as good as his word. In. less than ten 
minutes two taxis arrived laden with piles of materials* 
Frantically I set to work. I could not cut and spoil 
the material, for it must all be returned to the shop in 
perfect condition* Somehow or other I managed to 
drape it with the aid of pins, tucking in rough edges 
and sewing it here and there, while the girls worked 
hard finishin g off the make-shift “models”. Before 
the time for our turn arrived we had got together 
about thirty dresses which, if they were not quite up 
to my standard, were infinitely more ingenious. 

I told the audience what had happened and they 
took the whole thing with the utmost good-nature 
and gave us a splendid reception. Fortunately our 
luggage arrived in time for the next night's per- 
formance. 

There is a great deal to be said for the life of a 
variety artiste, I think. I know that in all my life I 
never spent six months in a more delightful manner* 
Each town had some new experience. In Cincinnati 
we lost our clothes ; in Cleveland the men appeared 
to be the most susceptible in America and deluged us 
all with love letters ; in Boston Mahmud got lost and 
was brought back by an enthusiastic escort of little 
boys who had found him wandering and recognized 
him as the Chow they had seen in the theatre; in 
Pittsburg I met Herbert Hoover, then United States 
Food Administrator. 

He was billed all over the town as one of the 
speakers at an anniversary dinner, that of the Pitts- 
burg Press Club. There were lots of smart women 
at the dinner, and I was invited to be one of them* It 
was to be an “Economy Dinner”, for the whole of the 

0 



242 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

United States was at that time in the throes of an 
economy campaign. 

I still have the menu. 

Cream of Tomato Soup 
Celery Olives 

Broiled Chicken 

Stringbeans Baked Potatoes 

Ices Cake 

Coffee 

Not a very long menu for a public banquet ! 

Across my menu is scrawled "O. K. Herbert 
Hoover." He wrote it in the middle of somebody's 
speech. 

We went through a long list of speakers, each 
more solemn and impressive than the last, and I was 
feeling desperate and thinking that I would welcome 
any diversion. 

At the end of the list came Herbert Hoover's 
speech. It was both brief and amusing, although his 
subject was "Economy in Food", which would not 
have inspired most people to be anything but dull 
and technical. I began to enjoy it and was quite sorry 
when he sat down. 

Suddenly I was horrified to see the toastmaster 
approaching my chair. He bent down and whispered 
that Mr. Hoover was particularly anxious that I should 
be the next speaker. I knew my name was not on the 
list, and I had had no intention of making a speech ; 
I did not even know what I was expected to speak on, 
but evidently the toastmaster took my silence of sur- 
prise as consent. Before I could get out a protest he 
announced in stentorian tones that Lady Duff Gordon 
would be the next speaker, and would follow Mr. 
Hoover's address on "Economy in Food" with one on 
"Economy in Dress in War-time". There was nothing 
for it but to get up and do my best. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 243 

I fear I rather scandalized the audience, for 
instead of the speech they had expected from me I 
began : 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the first thing I am going 
to tell you is that I don't believe in economy in dress 
at any time, and above all not in war-time/' 

Then I went on to tell them that I thought it was 
the duty of every wife, sweetheart and mother to spend 
as much on dress as they could possibly afford in order 
to make the best of themselves for the sake of the men 
in the trenches, 

“After all the men don't want to come back to 
frumps, do they?" I said, “And just think how 
fascinating the French women are. You simply can't 
afford to neglect your appearance." 

It was a very unorthodox speech at an economy 
dinner, but it certainly amused them. As I went back 
to my seat I apologized to Herbert Hoover for not 
supporting his economy campaign in a better way. He 
burst out laughing and patted me on the back. 

“Never mind, my dear, you have done very well," 
he said. 

Wherever we gave our show we topped the bill, 
and I was allotted number one dressing-room, and the 
best place on the programme. At one town Sophie 
Tucker was appearing in the same week, but she was 
number three on the bill, for although she was popular 
then she was not nearly so famous as she became 
afterwards. She gave the most amazing turn I have 
ever seen. 

During the six months we played in eighteen 
different towns,' On two occasions I was made to forfeit 
my entire salary for not being absolutely punctual to 
the minute, so that the act had to proceed without my 
little opening speech. Being late for your turn is the 
one unforgivable sin in American vaudeville, for the 
audience must never be kept waiting even for five 



344 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

minutes. Even Sarah Bernhardt had to conform to 
this rule when she was in America, although she used 
to fret and work herself up into a temper over it. In 
Paris she thought nothing of keeping the audience at 
her own theatre waiting for thirty or forty minutes, or 
even longer, but such was their reverence for her that 
they never dreamt of complaining. She once told me 
of the terrific quarrel she had with the manager of one 
theatre who had threatened to fine her. He must have 
been a brave man ! 

All through the tour we got splendid Press notices. 
One critic wrote : 

“It is Lady Duff Gordon the artist, not Lady Duff 
Gordon the dress designer, who is revealing herself in 
Fleur ette’s Dream at Peronne . In just this subtle 
distinction lies the value of the entertainment. It is 
in no sense a fashion show. It is a series of exquisite 
pictures, imaginative conceptions, each one of which 
expresses some special phase of the artist's appreciation 
of colour, of light and of the significance of line.” 

It is difficult for me to express what colour has 
meant in my life. It has almost been my religion; 
for I see all beauty in terms of it. Badly blended 
colours are as painful to me as discords played on a 
piano are to musical people. 

I do not think any of us realize how important 
colour is to us physically and mentally ; it is a science 
we know so little of. Yet I am quite sure that certain 
colours have an affinity with certain people, and, there- 
fore, have a psychological effect when they are worn 
by them. 

Take purple for instance. It is one of the most 
beautiful of all shades ; it is the colour of passion and 
romance. But to me it always seems a disturbing 
colour, it stands for tragedy, there is mourning mixed 
with its passion. Isadora Duncan, the most tragic 
woman I have known, loved purple and always wore 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 245 

it, so did the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and Marie 
Antoinette* 

I have never understood why green should be called 
unlucky, although I know many people have this 
superstition, and as a dress designer I had often to 
give way to it, for I was constantly meeting women 
who would not have even a green ribbon on their 
clothes. 

Lily Langtry was superstitious about green, and, 
although it was a colour which suited her perfectly, 
she never could rid herself of the impression that it 
brought her ill-fortune. Whenever she yielded to the 
temptation of buying something green, she told me, 
something unpleasant occurred shortly afterwards. 
Curiously enough as a young girl in Jersey she had 
been very fond of green and had worn it a great deal 
without any ill effects, and it was King Edward, who 
was himself very superstitious, who taught her to dis- 
trust its unlucky qualities. 

To me it has always been the very reverse ; it was 
God's choice for a world that badly needed rest ; it is 
the colour of renewing, of re-birth. In France it is 
always used as the symbol of hope, hence the green 
caps of the little Catherinettes, donned in honour of 
the patron saint of old maids. 

Blue stands for purity, for love, too, but for a very 
different love from that of purple ; blue is for homely 
love, and peaceful, happy things. It is a colour all men 
love, and they will generally prefer a simple little home- 
made dress in blue to a model from one of the great 
houses in another colour ; that is if it is worn by a 
woman it suits, for there are some women who ought 
never to wear it. Nothing looks more incongruous 
than a pale blue dress worn by a very sophisticated- 
looking woman. One curious thing about blue is that 
it is not a good colour for an invalid. 

I remember that Elinor Glyn's daughter was once 



246 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

very ill in Paris, and for some time it was thought that 
she would not recover. She lay in a beautiful bedroom 
with hangings of soft blue tapestry and blue carpet ; 
there was blue everywhere, for it was her favourite 
colour. At last when a formidable galaxy of doctors 
had practically given her up, my sister sent for a young 
specialist of the very modern and unorthodox school, 
who was reputed to have effected some wonderful 
cures. Our faith in his skill was rather shaken when 
we observed that he looked first of all at the bed and 
its hangings and the walls and carpet before turning 
his attention to the patient. 

“There is far too much blue in this room,” 
he said, “She gets no encouragement to get well 
in it.” 

He sent out at once for some bright, yellow curtains 
and a yellow coverlet for the bed, and ordered us to 
take away the blue hangings . , . and incredible as 
it sounds, she began to get well from that day. 

Yellow is, I think, the luckiest colour of all. It is 
the colour of effort and vitality ; it draws happy things 
to it. Scarlet is the colour of passion, but a transient 
passion ; it is the colour of Carmen's flower, not of the 
great lovers of the world. Scarlet is a wanton. 

Very often I would make colour the theme of the 
little speech with which I opened every performance 
of Fleurette’s Dream . Americans are always ready to 
grasp any new theory and my colour philosophy was 
discussed in the Press all over the States. 

I was quite sorry when the tour came to an end, 
although my presence was badly needed at the studio 
in New York. I got back to find the city in the grip 
of the appalling epidemic of influenza, which later 
swept over Europe. Nobody seemed to know what 
caused it ; it had broken out suddenly and in less than 
ten days was raging with almost the violence of a 
medieval plague. Theatres and cinemas were closed. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


347 


businesses were carried on somehow with seventy per 
cent of the staff absent, men and women would fall 
down in the streets and be carried to the hospitals 
insensible. I believe that the percentage of fatal cases 
was actually higher than in London. You would go 
out to dine one night and a few days later would hear 
that three or four members of the party had been 
attacked by it. 

I remember being one of the guests at a little 
dinner-party given by Constance Collier and her 
husband, Julian L'Estrange ; the others were Mr. 
Merritt, editor of the Sunday American , and a young 
Russian artist. Within a week Julian L'Estrange and 
the Russian were dead and Mr. Merritt had only just 
escaped with his life. 

It was at this time that I lost my dearest friend. 
He died in Washington, where the epidemic was worse 
than anywhere else. He was only ill a few hours and 
died before I could reach him. I shall never lose the 
memory of the utter desolation I felt when I arrived at 
the station there, knowing I was too late, and that only 
the last poor comfort of seeing him laid to rest remained 
to me. 

When I got out of the train the entire platform 
appeared to be covered with coffins, there was only 
just space to walk between them. My porter, who was 
garrulous, as people always seem to be when one is in 
great sorrow, told me that they were the coffins of the 
recruits who had died at the huge training camp in 
Washington. They were waiting to be dispatched to 
hundreds of sorrowing homes all over the States . For 
many days, he told me, there had been about the same 
number, sometimes more. The toll of the influenza 
was almost as terrible as that of the War. 

So it was to a saddened New York that the news 
of the Armistice came, and the coming of it came as 
an anti-climax. 



348 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

By some means or other, it was never quite estab- 
lished how. New York got the false report of the 
declaration of the Armistice four days before it was a 
fait accompli ', and celebrated wildly, with the result 
that the official news, when it arrived, was robbed of 
all its effect* 

On the Thursday preceding the fateful Monday, 
the eleventh of November, New York went mad, indi- 
vidually and collectively. Old men let off fireworks 
and waved flags, staid fathers of families kissed young 
women who were perfect strangers to them in the 
street, and other people threw down from their windows 
half their worldly goods, or at least such as were port- 
able, on the heads of the passers by. The city streets 
were littered with stacks of papers thrown down from 
office windows by irresponsible members of the staff 
in the first exuberance of their rejoicing. Some of them 
were of value to their respective firms, and it was 
funny to see grave, elderly head clerks rooting among 
the rubbish to try and retrieve them. 

The day passed in an orgy of celebration. I was one 
of the celebrators like everyone else, and gave all the 
girls in my workrooms unlimited champagne . . . 
then towards evening the news leaked out. The 
rejoicing had been premature, no Armistice had been 
declared. 

New York went home to bed with its tail between 
its legs 1 We all felt desperately disappointed, and 
secretly rather silly. Uncomfortably we all began to 
remember the foolish things we had done during that 
day of celebration ; we should not have even given 
them a thought had we not heard that there had been 
no Armistice ; but as it was the whole complexion of 
the day had been changed. We all wanted to forget 
about it. 

Then four days later came the official news. Here 
was really the excuse for celebrating, as England anp 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 249 

every other allied country was celebrating ♦ . * but, 
nobody wanted to celebrate. We tried to work our- 
selves up again, but it was no use ; the champagne had 
gone flat, or perhaps there were no more things left to 
throw. Anyhow, whatever the reason, immensely 
relieved as we all were, November the eleventh of 
nineteen eighteen passed rather heavily in New York. 



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE 


P EACE had come to a chastened America, 

The winter of 1918 was not a very happy one 
for anybody. The proportion of men lost during the 
short time the army of the United States was in the 
field had been terrific; war had taken merciless toll 
of a nation young and unpractised in warfare. Even 
the homecoming of thousands of husbands and sons 
was shadowed by the thought of those who had been 
left on the batdefields of Europe. 

There was only one impulse — to forget. Everyone 
was restless ; people wanted to be in any place except 
the one where they happened to be. Old men and 
women who had lived all their lives in small towns in 
the Middle West sold their houses and came to New 
York, city dwellers went to the country, or took sea 
voyages. Young people went to victory balls, danced 
all night, got hilariously drunk, and went to bed in 
somebody else's house. 

Elderly men let off a lot of steam in their clubs 
arguing over the question of War debts and reparations, 
and discussing what the Allies would do to the Kaiser. 
Travel agents made plans for a record summer of 
tours to Europe and sent out alluring prospectuses, and 
opportunists foresaw that living would shortly become 
cheap in Germany, and hoped it would be possible to 
go there. Almost every week a new craze came out, 
the newspapers were full of them, new forms of religion, 
new forms of art, new music. Night clubs sprang up 
like mushrooms, the saxophone blared forth its message 
of jazz. 

But in spite of it all no one was happy. Those who 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 251 

were not under the spell of hectic gaiety were bored 
and listless, doctors were puzzled at the increase in 
neurasthenia ; psychologists tried out a dozen different 
theories ; somebody brought over the phrase le caffard ♦ 

For myself, I was more tired than I have ever been 
in my life. I was designing for all four houses, London, 
Paris, New York and Chicago, working day and night 
creating dresses which were to make other women 
beautiful, while my heart felt heavy as lead. With 
the death of the dear friend who had meant so much 
to me something seemed to have gone out of my life. 
I suddenly realized that I was terribly lonely ; I was 
making thousands of pounds, but I had no desire to 
spend them. For the first time since the days when I 
had cut out dresses in the dining-room in Davies 
Street and dreamt of being a famous dressmaker I had 
lost interest in my business. 

The memory of what Ellen Terry had told me years 
before came back to me. 

“No woman is ever completely satisfied with a 
career, however well she does in it," she had said. 
“Believe me you will find that out one day. There is 
an awful morass waiting for us all to fall into when we 
realize that what we have always called our life's work 
is of no importance after all." 

“Then what is really important ?" I had asked her, 
and she had thought a moment before answering slowly: 

“I suppose love and one's children. The women 
who have nine or ten children are the happiest of all. 
Physical creation is the only creation which gives a 
woman any lasting satisfaction, because she is in har- 
mony with Nature. If you give yourself to another 
sort of creation, poetry or music or drama, or even 
creating beautiful clothes as you do, you have to pay 
the price of it, and it is often more painful than physical 
travail." 

I had thought so little of her words at the time 



352 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

because then my work had been everything to me, but 
they came back to me that winter in New York. I 
knew so well then what she had meant, the feeling of 
loneliness and dissatisfaction that descends upon one 
suddenly in the very moment of success. 

I made up my mind that I would shake it off. 
Tout passe, I told myself every morning as I drove 
down to the studio, and I flung myself into my work, 
shutting out thought for at least a few hours. 

I had plenty to keep me occupied. I designed the 
trousseaux for some of the most talked-of weddings of 
the year. For one bride I chose a Russian wedding. 
Her dress and that of her bridesmaids, with heavily 
embroidered sleeves and high crowns to which were 
attached the traditional veils, set a fashion and after 
that every other wedding was more or less Russian for 
the next six months. Incidentally it brought in the 
vogue of the Russian boot, which spread to London 
and Paris, became a craze, and still remains with us in 
a more or less modified form. 

I also dressed several shows for Ziegfeld at this 
time. One of them was the famous "Jewel Pageant”, 
which created such a sensation at the "Midnight 
Frolics”. 

It was inspired by the most popular jewel fad of 
the moment in New York, a bracelet which spelt 
"D.E.A.R.E.S.T.” Every woman who could possibly 
afford it (they were an expensive little fantasy) wore 
one. They were composed of diamonds, emeralds, 
amethysts, rubies, sapphires and topaz, in a pattern 
which formed the letters of the word. 

Ziegfeld wanted something new for his Frolics and 
asked me whether I could dress a "Dearest Bracelet” 
number. So many girls were to represent each stone, 
and he wanted me to design costumes which would 
create a perfect setting for the jewels they were tp 
wear. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 353 

This was work after my own heart. I have always 
loved precious stones, and the thought that I was to 
have practically carte blanche in weaving them into a 
beautiful fantasy, a riot of colour, was an inspiration to 
me. I set to work at once. In a few weeks all the 
costumes were ready and Ziegfeld was delighted. 

“It will be the most wonderful thing I have ever 
staged/' he said. 

It was. New York talks of it still. Worn by some 
of the greatest beauties in the world, the dresses I 
had designed were like a vision from the Arabian 
Nights. Diamonds first, filmy white chiffon, on which 
hung cascades of gleaming stones, a girdle of them 
clasped the slender hips of the wearers ; dark emeralds 
next, a deep green on which the jewels were woven 
into a pattern of leaves ; then came amethysts, then 
wicked-looking rubies, pale emeralds, an exquisite leaf 
green ; sapphires of the blue you see in the windows 
of York Minster, the stones forming an intricate vine 
leaf pattern on the long draperies ; then topaz. 

The stones with which I had covered my dresses 
were, of course, imitation, but each girl wore the real 
stones on her neck and wrist, or round her ankles. 
They were lent by a noted jeweller for the production, 
and their entire value was said to be over a hundred 
thousand pounds. Special detectives were on duty 
the whole time they were worn in the scene, and 
the jewels used to arrive each day in charge of the 
jeweller's assistants, who were protected by an armed 
guard. 

The “Dearest Bracelet'' scene was the last spurt 
of my flagging energies. I knew that the time had 
come for me to take a rest. I could no longer control 
all the four houses, and continue with the designing 
at the same time unless I had help. 

I made one of the greatest mistakes of my life. 
I listened to the man who was later to bring about 



254 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

the complete ruin of "Lucile", the business to which 
I had devoted the best years of my life. 

This man, a Jewish wholesale manufacturer, had 
for months been trying to induce me to sell him 
"Ludle's", but I had always refused. I loved my 
work, I did not want to give it up. But there were 
letters of criticism from the partners in London. 

"You are an artist, you have no more idea of busi- 
ness than a child," they wrote. "You ought to see your 
work from the angle of a hard-headed business man." 

I was tired of hearing it . . . very well, they 
should have the "hard-headed business man". 

The Jewish manufacturer repeated his proposals. I 
still held out against giving over my whole business. 
Then he changed his offer. Would I let him have 
it, but retain a certain number of shares myself, on 
condition that I continued to design most of the 
models ? I welcomed this. It seemed the ideal solu- 
tion. I could go on with the only part of the business 
that had ever really interested me, creating the clothes 
I loved, but without the worry and responsibility of 
it all. I had never really been a business woman. In 
the Davies Street days I had begun making dresses 
to keep myself and my little daughter, but far more 
than that because I was happy in the making of them. 
I had watched my business grow and delighted in it, 
but I had never mastered its technical side. I was 
a designer, that was all. 

So I made up my mind with my usual impulsive- 
ness. It actually took me five minutes to decide upon 
the step which was going to change my whole life, 
and the Jewish manufacturer became "Ludle", and 
a very tired Lucy Duff Gordon stepped out of 
the director's chair and became only a paid member 
of the staff. 

I do not intend to write much of what happened 
to "Ludle's", there is too much bitterness left still. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 255 

and I do not believe in wasting good ink in vain regrets* 
The past is finished, and it is a mistake to look back 
on the false steps one has made, for it is altogether 
too discouraging. There is a great truth behind the 
parable of Lot's wife! 

A few weeks after giving over the reins of “Lucile's” 
I realized that I had been very unwise. The two 
branches in America, New York and Chicago, which 
had stood firm and solid all through those War- 
time years, were the first to reflect the changed con- 
ditions. New designers were engaged to turn out 
less expensive models. 

I saw what was happening, but I was too weary 
to care very much. If they wanted to change the 
character of the American branches, let them ; I had 
still Hanover Square and the Paris branch. I would 
go back to Europe and design my models there. A 
wave of homesickness had come over me. I wanted 
to go back to England, I longed for my own people. 
It would be good, I told myself, to see Tiverton and 
Flavia, the grandchildren who had been babies when 
I had last seen them. Cosmo and my daughter had 
begged me to come home in every letter they had 
written me since the Armistice. 

I thought of London, which I had last seen just 
before the War broke out. I could picture Hanover 
Square with the cars drawn up outside "Lucile's”, 
and everybody choosing gowns for Ascot. I must 
go back to London. 

And from London I would cross over to Paris. 
The chestnut trees would be just bursting into bloom 
in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, the garden of the 
Pavilion Mars would be at its loveliest with the lilacs 
in flower. I had had a letter from my old caretaker 
to say that the officers who had been billeted there 
during the War had left it in perfect condition; it 
was only waiting for me to occupy it again. 



256 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

So I booked a passage on the next boat, and with 
Hebe and some of the other girls I sailed for Europe. 

When I stepped off the boat I felt rather like a 
female Enoch Arderi ; it was so long since I had been 
in England. I began to wonder, for the first time, 
whether things would have changed much during the 
years. 

I was met by the whole family, Cosmo, my daughter 
and her husband, even the children. They took 
possession of me, and for the next few weeks I was 
allowed to do nothing but enjoy life, rest and pay a 
round of visits. 

Then, one day I slipped off by myself to Hanover 
Square and paid a visit to Lucile’s. The familiar 
line of cars was outside the door, the soft, grey carpets 
were unchanged, and everything looked as it had 
done when I had last seen it. 

The commissionaire was new. He did not know me 
and directed me very politely into my own show-room, 
where Celia and Margaret gave me a great welcome. 

They were not very enthusiastic about the business. 
Everyone was in the midst of a wave of economy, and 
people were buying as few clothes as possible. It was 
difficult to get silks, for half the looms in Lyons were' 
idle and others had just restarted j the colours were 
very bad, and it took weeks to get orders executed. 
The only thing to be done was to make the models 
as cheaply as we could and wait until conditions settled 
down to normal. 

So I took possession of my studio once more, but 
although I made a number of models I was still resdess 
and my work was desultory. I decided to go over to 
Paris, for I was sure that Paris would still be interested 
in dothes ; I told myself so many times in the train. 
The Parisian temperament, always more volatile than 
the Saxon, would, I thought, recover from the after- 
effects of the War far sooner. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 257 

But I was wrong. If I had found London changed, 
Paris was infinitely more so. I realized it the moment 
I got outside the Gare du Nord. Was this drab, dis- 
pirited city the Paris I had known? I could hardly 
believe it. Everyone looked anxious and unhappy, 
everyone was more or less shabby ; the men and 
women one passed in the streets seemed always in a 
hurry and always out of temper. I missed the laughing 
crowds, the joie-de-vivre and the leisurely elegance of 
the other Paris. Even the Paris of the early days of the 
War had seemed less remote from it than this city with 
its influx of foreigners, mostly English and Americans, 
its high prices and its badly-dressed crowds. 

The franc had fallen to nearly half its pre-War 
value, yet wages were still paid for the most part at 
pre-War rates, based on the former standard. The 
cost of living was very high. There was poverty and 
discontent everywhere. And on the top of it all floated 
the new-rich, the War profiteers, who seemed to have 
unlimited money. These and the South Americans 
kept alive the luxury trade of France at that time, 
for there was no limit to their extravagance. They 
were desperately unpopular with everyone except the 
tradespeople, who thrived on their money; the old 
noblesse despised them and the lower classes hated 
them. The son of a rich cocoa manufacturer nearly 
caused a riot by attempting to light his cigar with a 
mille franc note in Lyons, where at that time there 
was terrible poverty. 

The Russian refugees had come over in great force, 
most of them with appalling tales of suffering. One 
was constantly meeting women of the highest family 
who had only managed to save enough money to get 
to Paris after months of prostitution on the streets of 
Constantinople. A few who had had jewels to sell, 
and had succeeded in getting them out of Russia, 
had been more fortunate. None of them had any 

s 



358 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

settled plan except to reach Paris and find. some work. 

Paris was hospitable, she did her best for them. 
Slowly they were absorbed into her army of workers. 
They sold antiques and bibelots , opened Russian tea- 
shops and restaurants, and made Russian cooking 
fashionable. The youngest and prettiest of the women 
became mannequins and saleswomen in the salons of 
the grandes couturieres ; one or two drifted into Mont- 
martre and became cabaret singers or dancers. 

The men did everything and anything from acting 
as tutors to rich Americans to driving taxis and playing 
in balalaika orchestras. Somehow or other they 
managed to eke out a living, and at night they would all 
meet in a restaurant just off the Faubourg St. Honore 
and dream of a Russia once more in the hands of the 
Royalists, and make plans and hatch plots which, alas, 
came to nothing. And Paris, having seen so many 
plans vanish in smoke, looked on with a kindly, tolerant 
eye, and said nothing. 

This, then, was the post-War city I had to adjust 
myself to, a city of changed values, of the poverty of 
the many, and the immense wealth of a very few. I 
would sell a dress one day for five thousand francs to 
a South American, to whom it seemed a small sum, 
and the next day a Frenchwoman would regretfully 
refuse it at two thousand. In the end I learned to use 
the argument of “what you lose on the swings you 
save on the roundabouts”, and charged the South 
American six thousand and the Frenchwoman one 
thousand. 

It was impossible to make even half of our pre- 
War profits, for so few people had the money to spend 
large sums on dress. The old standard of extravagant 
dressing had gone for ever ; it passed away with the 
day of the great courtesans, whose whims and follies 
had so delighted die Parisians of 1913. Even the 
women who were noted as the best dressed in Europe 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 359 

had cut down their dressmakers* bills to half the 
previous amounts* There was consternation in the 
Rue de la Paix, World-famous houses were faced with 
the prospect of closing down. 

Something had to be done about it; there was need 
for drastic measures. The great couturieres, the leaders 
of fashion, took counsel among themselves. 

There was only one remedy, they must cut down 
the cost of production to the lowest possible limit. 
There must be no more “picture dresses” with trailing 
yards of lovely satins and brocades, no more filmy 
chiffon dresses veiling heavy silk underslips, no more 
waste of material even on linings. Lace must be taboo, 
so must expensive embroideries ; hats must be plain 
and practically untrimmed. Every yard of material 
saved must be looked upon as a yard to the good. It 
was, they said, the only plan to work on. 

But the new measures must be inaugurated with 
tact. No couturier could possibly say in effect to his 
clients, “I am going to dress you as cheaply as possible/* 
such a thing would be an outrage to feminine vanity. 
No, there must be a flourish of trumpets, women 
must be made to feel that the revolutionary styles were 
the last word in chic. 

The Rue de la Paix is nothing if not resourceful. 
It brought in the ideal of “the boyish woman**. Here 
was the perfect solution of the problem. Slight figures 
covered with three yards of material, skirt ending 
just below the knees, tiny cloche hat trimmed with 
a band of ribbon. 

No woman, at least no woman in civilization, could 
cost less to dothe 1 And best of all the women were 
delighted with the new presentation of themselves. 
They improved on the idea, shingled their hair, adopted 
boyish mannerisms and slang and flew to the cocktail 
bar (long, silk-stockinged legs looked so well dangling 
from a high stool). Critics wrote learnedly of the 



260 discretions and indiscretions 

“modem girl's emancipation" and the older generation 
were harsh in their condemnation. But neither the 
“modern" nor her critics knew that she was a creation 
of the dressmakers, just as much as the clothes she 
wore, and all because some solution had to be found 
to the problems of the Rue de la Paix ! 

You see, all dressmakers know that women are in 
many ways an expression of their clothes. Put a woman 
into a certain type of dress and she will instinctively 
find a pose to wear it. The straight-backed rigidity 
of the Victorian reflected those dreadful straight-backed 
corsets they wore. Had you put the whole generation 
into other garments you would have produced a different 
womanhood. The wearers of the boyish post-War 
dresses had to live up to them by adopting a boyish 
pose. The clothes of to-day, which are growing more 
feminine, are giving us a sweeter, more feminine 
woman; the graceful, long skirts, which have come 
back at least for evening wear, are restoring something 
of the dignity and repose which we lost just before 
the War. 

But to return to Paris. 

I was happy enough at the Pavilion Mars, for I 
loved Versailles, and knew every inch of the Palace 
and its grounds. I used to spend whole days wanderirig 
about the gardens whenever I could spare the time 
from my work. Indeed I was so familiar with the 
Palace that I remember one of the guardians pointing 
me out to some American visitors with the remark 
that I knew more of the history of Versailles than 
he did. 

One day I was showing two Americans, still in 
uniform, the wonderful Galerie des Glaces in the 
Palace of Versailles where the Peace Treaty was 
signed, and at the “Salon de la Paix" end of the great 
Galerie we came upon a little man painting a laige 
picture. He was in a shabby and dirty English 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


261 


uniform and looked cold and miserable. I took him for 
an ordinary Tommy, but when I looked at his picture 
I was surprised at the skill and beauty revealed there. 
Before the War I knew all the artists who came to 
paint Versailles, the garden, the statuettes, the par- 
terres and the fountains, but I had never seen any of 
them attempting the Galerie des Glaces. I looked 
again at the shabby little soldier and said, "Well, my 
man, you’re certainly some artist 1” He seemed 
pleased by my praise and we started talking. 

As it was nearing lunch time and he looked so 
cold and hungry I invited him to join us. He seemed 
delighted and I brought him home with us. Imagine 
my consternation when, in answer to my question, 
he told me he was William Orpen ! 

After that I saw him often and used to carry him 
a hot water bottle to keep his feet warm while he 
finished the picture on which he was engaged when I 
told him he was certainly "some artist*’ and which 
is now one of his most famous — "The Signing of the 
Peace Treaty’’. 

Best of all I loved the Petit Trianon, with its 
memories of Marie Antoinette. I was always very 
interested in the story of the ghost of the poor Queen 
which had been seen by so many people, but although 
I was very anxious to see it myself and often stayed 
long after sunset in the haunted room, I never succeeded 
in doing so. The guardian, who knew me well, would 
let me stay there as late as I liked and I used to leave 
by a little side door afterwards. He, like me, was 
anxious to see the ghost and told me that he had once 
passed the whole night in the Queen’s salon, where it 
was supposed to appear, but had seen and heard 
nothing. 

Curiously enough only a few days after telling me 
this story he was arranging some furniture in the 
room when he looked up and sitting in a chair opposite 



262 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


him he distinctly saw Marie Antoinette. She was not 
crying and wringing her hands as the Versailles ghost 
was reported to do, but looked, he told me, s mili ng and 
happy, and in every way like an ordinary woman, 
not unsubstantial and wraith-like. Her flesh appeared 
to have the texture of perfect health and he saw the 
sheen of her silk dress in the sunlight (the apparition 
occurred in broad daylight). She sat thus for quite a 
minute while he watched her, then without the effect 
of any dramatic disappearance she was no longer there. 
The chair was empty. 

After this I redoubled my efforts to see the ghost 
and sat in the salon at all hours of the day and night, 
but without success. 

The Pavilion Mars was a beautiful type of an 
Empire house, which had belonged to the famous 
Mdlle Mars, actress of the Comedie Fran^aise and 
mistress of Napoleon. People who were interested in 
the Empire period used to come far and wide to see 
it. 

One of the visitors I entertained there was Queen 
Marie of Roumania, who spent a day with me while 
she was staying in Paris. She is a keen student of history 
and was delighted with both the house and the garden, 
where we had tea. She brought with her her son. 
Prince Nicholas, who appeared greatly in awe of his 
mother. He scarcely addressed a word to anyone 
during the whole time they were there, except when 
the Queen and her lady-in-waiting left us for a few 
minutes, when he seemed to relax from the state of 
tension he had been in, and chatted away to me in a 
delightful manner. 

Another visitor I had there was Blasco Ibanez, the 
great Spanish novelist. He was an untidy, rather gross 
man, coarse in appearance, very different from the 
spirittial philosopher dne would have expected. It 
was just at die time. that his film, "The Four Horsemen 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 263 

of the Apocalypse”, was being shown at all the cinemas, 
and everyone was talking of Rudolph Valentino, who 
had leapt into fame through his performance in the 
principal part* Women especially were raving over 
him, from my mannequins, who used to collect every 
portrait of his they could find, to rich Americans, 
who used to send him wonderful presents* 

I remember one woman particularly, the wife of 
a Chicago millionaire* She was young and good-looking, 
and her husband was indulgent even for an American. 
She was, I believe, perfectly happy in a placid easy 
way until she saw the film and promptly fell in love 
with Rudolph Valentino* 

She went to the cinema again and again, and in 
the meantime thought of nothing but the way in which 
she might bring about a meeting with this incredibly 
handsome Italian boy. Finally she decided to write 
to him and did so. The letter was not answered. She 
wrote again, and still again ; she sent presents, socks, 
ties, a dressing-gown, which cost two hundred dollars. 
He wrote her a charming but quite formal letter of 
thanks, but it transported her to the seventh heaven* 
By this time she had become hopelessly bored with the 
kind but uninspired husband, and after leaving him 
a note, she took the train for Hollywood, determined 
to force the situation with Rudolph Valentino. The 
film star, who had become accustomed to the adoration 
of thousands of women, took her devotion as a matter 
of course, but was not in the least interested, in fact 
he gave her a very polite congi. Impervious to snubs 
she remained in Hollywood, following him about when- 
ever she could get knowledge of his movements, writing 
him the most passionate letters, sending him flowers, 
wine, cigars, in fact anything she could t hink of. 

The poor husband, distressed at the loss of his 
wife and humiliated at the gossip she was causing, 
arrived in Hollywood and endeavoured to persuade 



264 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

her to return to Chicago with him. He sought and 
finally obtained an interview with Valentino, who 
assured him, and quite truthfully, that he had no 
wish whatsoever to rob him of his wife, and that he 
would be actually relieved if the lady would leave 
Hollywood. 

Eventually, although she refused to return to him, 
the husband was able to persuade her to go on a cruise 
to Europe. While she was staying in Paris she came 
to me for a number of dresses, and incidentally told 
me the whole story of her infatuation for Rudolph 
Valentino. She used to come to see me day after day, 
each time paying my special consultation fee, which 
amounted to twenty pounds, so that she might talk 
about him. I told her quite frankly that so many 
consultations were not necessary to design her dresses, 
but she replied that the money was of no importance 
and she was lonely in Paris. Every day long letters 
used to be sent to Valentino, and parcels, containing 
all sorts of presents, cigarette-cases and valuable 
antiques and jewellery, were dispatched regularly to 
Hollywood. 

On the surface the story had all the elements of 
comedy, the amorous woman, the indifferent film star 
and the injured husband ; in reality it was a tragedy. 
This woman who all her life had had every wish gratified 
was inconsolable over her failure to attract the man 
on whom she had centred her love. Her face grew 
haggard and wretched as the weeks passed and there 
was no letter from him. 

Eventually she returned to the States and I was 
horrified to read one morning of her death from an 
overdose of a sleeping draught. 

I never met Rudolph Valentino, but I knew more 
than one woman who would have gone through fire 
for a smile from him. He seemed to have a curious 
fasdnation for women of all types; they all saw in 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 265 

him the wonderful exotic lover of their dreams* Yet 
the woman who Valentino himself loved best of all, 
and whom he married, was not, as I remember her, 
either very exotic or even very beautiful* 

Years before anyone had heard of the famous film 
star I used to know a little girl in Paris named Winifred 
de Wolfe, the stepdaughter of Elsie de Wolfe's brother* 
She was a slim, graceful little creature with big dark 
eyes and a wide mouth, very shy and rather lonely. 
She was at a finishing school in Versailles and I used 
often to take her out with me to theatres and an 
occasional lunch or dinner at one of the smart 
restaurants. As I got to know her better I found that 
she was the most romantic child one could imagine, 
she lived in a dream world of her own. 

“I would do anything on earth for someone who is 
beautiful," she once told me* "Some day I shall meet 
some man like a fairy prince and love him for ever 
and ever." 

Winifred grew up and then there was consternation 
in the family, for they discovered that the apparently 
meek and thoroughly conventional little daughter had 
very definite ideas as to what she would do with her 
life, and meant to stick to them. Winifred's mother 
had remarried by this time Walter Hudnut, the 
millionaire, and of course expected her daughter to 
lead the usual life of a society debutante, balls, parties, 
winter in Cannes, spring in Florence, and the rest of 
the year in the States, with the usual string of eligible 
young men in attendance. 

Winifred refused to do this from the very start. 
It would not interest her in the least, she assured her 
horrified relations, and she intended to live her life in 
her own way. There was a great deal of bickering 
about it all, and finally Winifred took the matter into 
her own hands and disappeared. For months there 
was no news from her, and even the most exhaustive 



a66 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

enquiries failed to disclose any trace of her where- 
abouts. 

When she was eventually found she had changed her 
name to Natacha Rambova and was a member of 
KoslofPs famous ballet which was creating such a 
sensation in New York. She was living on a tiny 
salary, sharing rooms with another girl, but nothing 
would induce her to return to affluence and the social 
world from which she had escaped. 

A little while afterwards she met and married her 
“fairy prince”, but, alas, she did not live happily ever 
after with him l 



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 


N O chronicle touching even ever so lightly on the 
Paris of those early days after the War would 
be complete without a portrait of Cecile Sorel ; indeed 
one might almost say that Sorel at that time was Paris. 
The hospitable light from the great candelabra of her 
appartement on the Quai Voltaire shone like a beacon 
in the dimmed glories of Parisian entertaining ; states- 
men and diplomats forgot their differences or setded 
them amicably at her parties. 

The first time I met the famous actress was when 
she came to my studio to ask me to design her dresses 
for her new play, and I thought then that I had never 
seen a more fascinating woman. She was not, strictly 
speaking, beautiful, certainly not pretty ; that hope- 
lessly banal word would have been quite inadequate as 
a description of her particular compound of wit, allure, 
and above all, of that indefinable quality which was 
her charm. She was wearing that day, I remember, 
a sapphire blue velvet dress with a magnificent silver 
fox stole, clasped on one shoulder by a single sapphire, 
an enormous uncut stone which must have been very 
valuable, like everything else with which she sur- 
rounded herself. 

Her renaissance appartement was filled with wonder- 
ful pictures, furniture, curios, jewels, each of them 
worth a fortune. Her gold bed was famous, her bathr 
room had been furnished at a cost of fifty thousand 
francs, her collection of jade was one of the finest in 
Europe. She was a curious combination of lavish 
generosity and good bourgeois thrift. She would 
spend recklessly on giving splendid parties, which 

z67 



268 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

would be thronged by the smartest set in Paris, and 
the next day she would invite all her family and poor 
relations “to eat up what was left”, as she put it* On 
the third day the servants would be regaled, and on 
the fourth the army of beggars, to whom she was a 
veritable fairy godmother, would come for the remnants 
of the feast. 

She was the most cultured, most intelligent woman 
one could hope to meet in a generation, yet she could 
argue and haggle with a tradesman, and what is more, 
get the better of him over the matter of a few francs. 

She once told me that when she had been poor 
and unknown her great ambition had been to have a 
salon. She certainly attained it, and became the leader 
of the most brilliant coterie in Paris. Her fine sense 
of the dramatic enabled her to create a romantic back- 
ground for herself, and she had a flair for always 
choosing the best in music, art or literature. Her 
salons were the rendezvous of all the rising young 
poets, dramatists and composers, but she never wasted 
time on the unsuccessful. Her tact was admirable. 
She had many love affairs, and although her admirers 
included a prince and a world-famous statesman she 
refused both. 

“I am the last of the great lovers,” she once said 
to me. “Marriage does not attract me.” 

Yet she married the Comte de Segur. That was 
Cedle Sorel. 

Of all the dresses I made Cecile Sorel my favourite 
was a velvet in palest lemon which clung to her figure 
and followed every movement. I took my inspiration 
from the classical severity of the old Greek draperies, 
caught up in beautiful folds on one hip. She wore 
her clothes with such grace that even the most eccentric 
fashions, of which she was very fond, looked charming 
on hex. 

As a general rule the Frenchwoman has neither 




Mme CECILE SOREL 

of the Com£die Fran9aise, given to me in 1927 


[268 




DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 369 

the grace nor the distinction of the Englishwoman, 
but she excels in the art of wearing her clothes, and 
is more particular over the picture she presents. She 
will spend hours thinking out her costumes, and more 
hours standing patiently while she is being fitted for 
them, studying every movement so that not a tiny 
seam shall be half an inch out of place. The result 
is that she is always perfectly turned out, and looks 
as though her clothes had been moulded on her. She 
is more afraid of expressing her own individuality in 
her dressing than the Englishwoman is, and will always 
follow the prevailing fashion regardless of whether it 
suits her own type or not, which often puts her at a 
disadvantage. 

I remained in Paris for some years after the War, 
for I had so much work to do that it would have been 
practically impossible for me even to take a holiday. 
English and American tourists poured into France and 
ordered clothes for the Riviera, for Switzerland, or for 
the season in London. 

Paris began to recover from the effects of the War, 
hotels were crowded, the luxury shops took heart 
of grace and put up their prices. In Germany the 
mark had tottered and fallen; people who had been 
there came back with stories of bargains they had 
secured, fur coats picked up for a few dollars, jewels 
and dressing-cases at a twentieth part of their cost. 
They were immensely pleased with their spoil, it served 
the Germans right, they said, it had been time to teach 
them a lesson. 

Germany, however, had become "uncomfortable”, 
the tourist stream was directed to France. People 
who had never thought of travelling crossed over from 
America in every boat; all classes from millionaires 
to retired small town shopkeepers were in the grip of 
a mania for "seeing Europe”, money poured into the 
coffers of France. Almost every day women whom I 



270 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

had dressed in New York and Chicago came into my 
studio to ask me to design for them. 

Among them was the wife of a wealthy manu- 
facturer, who had brought her daughter over to Europe. 
They had only a short time in Paris because, as the 
mother informed me with considerable pride, they 
were going to spend the season in London. Her 
daughter, she told me, was going to be presented, 
and she wished me to design her Court dress and a 
number of other clothes. Becoming more confidential 
she explained that they had answered the advertise- 
ment of “an English lady of tide”, who had intimated 
in the American papers that she would be willing to 
act as chaperone and arrange social introductions for 
American visitors during the London season. After 
several letters had been exchanged the woman, who 
was in fact a well-known London hostess, had agreed 
to take charge of them at a cost of £1,000 “to cover 
the expenses she would be obliged to incur in enter- 
taining for them suitably”. 

I was shown one or two of the hostess's letters, 
which certainly contained most alluring bait for snobs, 
for they touched on the various introductions which 
could be effected, and hinted at the probability of 
presentation at Court. 

Both mother and daughter departed for London in 
die highest spirits and taking with them an enormous 
wardrobe of clothes. 

It was some three months before I saw them again, 
when they came to order more clothes before sailing 
from Cherbourg, and they were in a very different 
frame of mind from their previous one. They had 
not, it appealed, enjoyed their season in London, and 
they were furiously indignant over what they described 
as “the way in which they had been cheated out of their 
money” by their society chaperone. The introductions 
which had been accomplished had been of a practically 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 271 

useless nature, “not one real aristocrat among the lot”, 
as the mother said bitterly ; for either their hostess's 
conscience had not allowed her to exploit her friends 
for their benefit, or she had not considered it necessary 
to fulfil her promises. The entertaining which had 
been done on their behalf had been negligible, and the 
crowning annoyance had been the discovery that there 
was no possibility of the daughter's presentation. The 
chaperone, after evasive replies to their eager questions 
on the subject, had eventually admitted just before 
the last Court of the season that she had been unable 
to arrange it. 

She had not expected the storm which had broken 
out. Neither mother nor daughter were of the type 
which suffers in silence. In the course of what must 
have been an intensely unpleasant scene they had 
accused their chaperone of taking their money on false 
pretences, and threatened to expose the whole scandal. 
Heedless of her horrified protests they had gone to a 
solicitor and instructed him to take proceedings against 
her. Only by refunding half the sum she had received 
for chaperonage had she been able to keep the case 
out of the courts. 

This affair is by no means without parallel, for 
although there are society women who act as social 
chaperones each season to American and Colonial 
visitors, and are perfectly honourable in fulfilling their 
obligations, there are others who are far less scrupulous, 
and who are not above exploiting their protegees in a 
disgraceful manner. Naturally these things are seldom 
heard of, for the sufferers for the most part are reticent 
over their experiences, and return to their own 
countries without any redress. 

• I was still in Paris when the new “boyish” fashion, 
the most startling change since the hobble skirt had 
been launched, was definitely adopted. The short 
skirt and the cloche hat had ousted the picture dress 



272 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

and the wide-brimmed hat and its feathers from 
the field. The Rue de la Paix rejoiced. It had been an 
easy victory. 

“Women will never go back to the ridiculous 
clothes of a few years ago/' said the high priests and 
the high priestesses of fashion, “They are only too 
pleased at being given a neat little dress that is almost 
like a uniform.” 

They had forgotten that time does not stand still, 
and that women, even the most enthusiastic adopters 
of “the uniform”, would tire of it and long once more 
for the femininity of curls and swirling draperies 
reaching to the ankle. 

The success of the new mode vindicated its creators, 
they had known the value of a pose, the psychological 
moment for launching “the modern ideal of woman- 
hood”. In Paris, New York, London, the streets were 
full of slight, boyish figures, clothed in a few yards of 
material, and a cloche hat. New designers came to 
the fore, they planted their standards in the most 
sacred precincts of the Rue de la Paix ; young men 
who flaunted the traditions of the temple of “La 
Mode” ... so simple, those little dresses. 

Here and there was a dissentient voice, one of the 
high priests retired in offended dignity after refusing 
to conform to the new fashions ; there was strife 
between some of the rival houses. 

Monsieur A. accused Mdme. B. of vulgarity. The 
models she was making were, he said, an offence to the 
whole profession. Since when, might he ask, in the 
history of dressmaking had women been accustomed 
to show their knees ? Madame's clients were not even 
content with showing their knees, they were' positively 
showing a space of at least an inch above them 1 

Mdme. B. shrugged her dainty shoulders and elevated 
her pretty little nose. Her models, she retorted with 
vigour, were made for the young and attractive, and. 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 273 

moreover, for those whose knees were beyond reproach ; 
naturally it could not be expected that the frumpish 
dowagers who frequented Monsieur A's establishment 
would care to adopt anything so frivolous and so 
entirely charming. As for being vulgar . . . well, 
it was too much a matter of common knowledge that 
her clients numbered the most aristocratic families in 
Europe for such an ill-directed shaft to wound. Was 
not Monsieur A. aware that her mannequin parades 
were attended by queens, that an English duke was a 
constant visitor to her salons, and that many of the 
dresses worn at the Courts in London were made by 
her ? Monsieur must think of some other accusation ! 

The Rue de la Paix is accustomed to take itself 
seriously. Humour is reserved for the showroom, 
where it is useful, for instance, to soothe the ruffled 
feelings of a refractory client, but anyone so misguided 
as to attempt to apply it to the studio or the work- 
rooms would be guilty of a grave breach of etiquette. 
Its amities are conducted with an appropriate dignity, 
its hostilities have all the solemn formality of an old- 
time duel. 

As the stranger in its midst I was shown a chivalrous 
courtesy, and after the first resentment at my intrusion, 
with my supposed band of plain, flat-chested English 
misses, had been dispelled I was even welcomed to its 
community. But- it was not for me to participate in 
the controversy of the short skirt versus the long, for 
when it took place I was on the point of leaving Paris. 

For some time I had realized the impossibility of 
continuing to design for “LucileV', for the new partner- 
ship had not proved a success, and for months there 
had been a series of disagreements, which culminated 
in my withdrawing from the business altogether. It 
was an inevitable step on my part, but it was a very 
painful one. I had been so happy in my work* 

The .night before I left Paris I thought over it 



274 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

all, looking back along the years. I saw myself as I 
had been, young and confident and full of hope, a little, 
red-haired girl cutting out models on the dining-room 
floor, elated at the first orders. I saw the house in Old 
Burlington Street I had moved into so proudly. 

"You must be mad taking a place like that with no 
capital to safeguard you," people had said. "You 
can never make it pay." 

But I had. I saw the salon in Hanover Square, 
scene of so many of my triumphs, the first mannequin 
parade I had staged there . . . Paris, New York, 
Chicago ... so many hopes had been built on 
them all. 

When I was packing I came across the crucifix 
Grandmere had given me so many years before. A 
sudden impulse made me climb the steep stairs to her 
, room under the roof. I had not visited it since her 
death, but I found that it had not been changed. 
The same old furniture was there, only it had grown 
dusty and a little more worn. Something of her 
presence still lingered there. I remembered the first 
time I had seen her, a lonely, frightened old woman, 
terrified that I might turn her out of her only home, 

"Ah, madame, it is only the young who like changes,” 
she had said. "When one grows old one learns to dread 
them," 

I understood. I too knew what it was to be afraid of 
what the future might hold. 

I went back to London the next day, and drove 
straight to the Ritz. For the moment I did not want 
anyone to meet me. I could not talk business until 
I had had time to think. I did not know how much 
money was left to me, but I realized that I, who had 
all my life been extravagant, must accustom myself to 
being comparatively poor. 

Cosmo came the next day, unfailingly kind as he 
always was. He had to confirm my fears. Nearly all 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 275 

my capital had been swallowed up. But he was full 
of encouragement and had all sorts of plans for me. 
I put them all on one side. 

“Leave me to think it over/' I said, and he under- 
stood. 

A little later the house in Hanover Square was 
sold. Before it changed hands I asked the agents for 
the key so that I might go over it for the last time. 
Cosmo demurred a little* It was a morbid fancy, he 
said, and would only make me sad, but I would not 
listen to him. I had the feeling that I should find fresh 
courage there. 

I went through the big, empty showrooms one 
after the other. They had a dejected look, cobwebs 
stretched over the wall where the mannequins' stage 
had been, and the floor over which Dolores and Hebe 
had trailed their glorious dresses was covered with dust. 

Suddenly I laughed, and the young man from the 
house agents, who had accompanied me to the house 
and had been observing me with an expression of 
commiseration, looked acutely embarrassed. I suppose 
he thought I was going to have hysterics. 

“It is nothing," I explained, “only I can't help 
laughing when I remember that they all told me that 
I ought to have men with good, solid, business brains 
to help me. One little woman kept this big place going 
and three others like it, and made thousands of pounds 
out of it all. It was only when the ‘hard-headed business 
men' came into it that it all collapsed." 

The young man from the agents smiled politely, 
but he did not understand. I had not expected him 
to, but the laugh had done me good; with it I had 
recovered my courage. I began to make plans for the 
future, though I had poor enough materials to build 
with. Something had to be done unless I was to retire 
into the country somewhere to live with poverty and 
memories for the rest of my days. 



276 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

I began to write for the papers, articles on dress, 
and before long I was making sufficient to live comfort- 
ably at least, if not luxuriously. I loved writing these 
articles, for I always felt that they brought me so many 
friends. Hundreds of girls used to send me letters 
every week asking my advice on dress and on every 
sort of problem. “My Dorothys” I called the senders 
of these simple, affectionate letters, and I always 
replied to them personally. I have kept many of the 
letters stored away in boxes to this day. 

But all this time although I was interested enough 
in my excursions into journalism I was longing to 
design again. I used to read of the new fashions that 
Paris was launching, and attend other designers' 
mannequin parades with an absolute longing to be 
back in the studio once more. I felt my life incomplete 
with my one special gift lying idle. The days passed 
pleasantly. I had my writing; I had my daughter 
and the two grandchildren, who were beginning to 
grow up, to interest myself in; my mother took up 
a great deal of my time ; Cosmo was full of sympathy 
over the ruins of “Lucile's”, and did everything he 
could to help me ; and I had hosts of friends. But I 
wanted something more. I could never walk through 
the big stores and see yards of materials, silks, chiffons 
and velvets without a feeling of homesickness for the 
studio. I was like an artist shut away from his colours, 
or a violinist deprived of his violin. 

I was almost envious of my sister, Elinor Glyn, 
who was making cinema history in Hollywood. She 
was perfectly happy finding self-expression in the work 
she loved. Her letters to me were full of enthusiasm. 
In one of them she told me of Hollywood's newest 
discovery, Clara Bow. 

“Everyone out here is tremendously excited over 
what they call my invention of Tt'," she wrote, “which 
is really rather absurd because I have been writing of 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 277 

the qualities one associates with ‘It’ since 1903, only 
no one thought of giving a definite name to them 
until my novel came out and caused such a sensation. 
Now all Hollywood is talking of ‘It’, and just what 
constitutes ‘It’, and who has, or has not, got ‘It’, until 
I am quite tired of hearing them all. What annoys 
me most of all is that they will insist on confusing 
‘It’ with sex-appeal, which is both vulgar and stupid, 
for in that case every pretty woman would have ‘It’ ! 
However, I have done my best to explain. 

“The result of all this excitement has been that 
Paramount's have asked me to write a scenario around 
the theme of ‘It’ for a new discovery of theirs, a dear 
little girl called Clara Bow. She has the most beautiful 
eyes I have ever seen, and a mop of curly, red hair. 
I had her to see me this morning and found her very 
intelligent, and so eager and willing to learn. I have 
the feeling that she would make a wonderful tragic 
actress if only one could provide her with a really 
good governess to correct her accent, which is 
appalling.” 

Later I had another letter. The new film was 
progressing splendidly, although both my sister and 
Clara Bow had been nearly drowned while they were 
making it. They and other members of the company 
had been out for eleven days in a decrepit old yacht 
on the Pacific so that some of the scenes should be 
filmed under the right conditions. 

“We had a frightful time, for the weather was 
very rough during part of the trip,” Elinor wrote. 
“It was a severe test for anyone’s character, but Clara 
Bow was charming all through it. She never once 
lost her temper or gave way to moods, as nearly every 
star in Hollywood would have done in the same cir- 
cumstances. She was so cheerful and considerate that 
it was a pleasure to be with her.” 

Her letters revived memories of New York and the 



378 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

film stars whom I had dressed, Mary Pickford, Lillian 
and Dorothy Gish, Pauline Frederick * . . I could 
picture them all. I longed to be back in the studio again , 

It was this longing to do something that made me 
take a fiat in Chelsea, where I started to make a few 
models. I had no mannequins and no showroom, 
only one or two girls to sew for me. The fitting was 
done in my drawing-room, which was terribly incon- 
venient. It was once the cause of a contretemps . 

Betty Blythe, the famous film star, had come to 
me for a number of dresses for her new picture. Now 
the most important point in making dresses for the 
screen is that they must be so tight that there is not 
even an extra inch of material to cause unnecessary 
wrinkles, otherwise the fit of a beautiful dress can be 
ruined when it is seen through the camera. Hollywood 
has, therefore, formed the invariable habit of being 
fitted with nothing on underneath the dress. 

On this particular afternoon Betty Blythe arrived 
to try on her new evening dress, and I left her in the 
drawing-room while I went to summon the fitter. 

Meanwhile a very august lady had arrived to see 
some designs I had prepared for her and was shown 
by my parlourmaid, who was young and inexperienced 
and somewhat flustered by the rank of the visitor, 
into the drawing-room. When I reached the door, 
I was just in time to see her make a hurried exit. With 
some agitation she told me that the occupant of the 
room had been a young lady whose only clothing 
consisted of a pair of stockings ! 

Of course I explained what had happened, and to 
my great relief the august lady took the situation with 
the most gracious good humour, and commented on 
the beauty of Betty Blythe's figure. 

After that I gave orders that film stars were to be 
fitted in my bedroom in future ! 



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE 


W HEN I was young I always turned to the last 
pages of a book before deciding whether I wanted 
to read it or not, for I held the view that no story 
which had not a satisfactory ending could possibly be 
worth bothering about* 

I should not like anyone to apply this test to the 
story of my life as I have lived it and as I have tried 
to set it down here, for the climax is neither a very 
romantic nor a very thrilling one* I have had 
more, perhaps, than my fair share of romance and 
adventure, but I have crowded both into the earlier 
years of my life* I am content, now to be a spectator* 
Yet there is something eternally adventurous in us all 
and I can still look forward to the unknown, the 
blank page at the end of the book, which has yet to 
be filled in. 

I did not build up a second house of “Lucile”, 
although I was often tempted to do so, and perhaps 
one day I shall turn the key in my studio and come 
back to the world as a new-old designer. If I do so 
the first thing I shall remember is the adage. Plus pa 
change , plus ga reste le meme chose . I who have dressed 
three generations of women am continually surprised 
to find looking back at it all how little fashions have 
changed in the main essentials. Many of the dresses 
I made thirty or forty years ago could be worn to-day, 
with only the most trivial alterations. The materials 
are called by other names, but they are very much 
the same materials, the line has changed, but it is only 
a superficial change. The fashions of the 'nineties 

279 



380 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 


would actually look less absurd to us to-day than 
the fashions of seven years ago would, with their 
exaggeratedly short skirts and their waistline midway 
between hip-bones and knee. 

And as the fashions have changed but little, so have 
their wearers. The ideal of “the modem woman" 
created a few years ago by the designers of the Rue 
de la Paix, the exponent of the cocktail bar, the ultra- 
sophisticated slang, and the inevitable cigarette is 
gradually giving place to a mock- Victorian era. The 
natural lilies-and-roses complexion may be artfully 
simulated by Elizabeth Arden’s preparations, the limpid 
innocence of eyes gazing up from an aureole of curls 
may be a matter of careful shading, but the general 
effect is much the same. One must not look too closely 
that is all, but then the Victorians themselves never 
looked too closely ; they were adepts at shutting their 
eyes. 

If I do return one day to my studio I shall have 
no difficulty in creating the dresses of 1932, for they 
are only an evolution of the dresses I designed at the 
beginning of this century. After all, an artist of a 
hundred years ago, could he find himself transplanted 
to modern life, would have no difficulty in portraying 
the beauties of to-day, for beauty is less a matter of 
fashion than one supposes. 

For the present I have interests enough, for I have 
been more fortunate than many people and the years 
have left me most of my friends. I am not lonely in 
my little house on Hampstead Heath, and I have my 
daughter and my grandchildren, so that I can build 
my life around them. When I was younger my recipe 
for happiness was to think only a little and to live a 
great deal, now I am learning to reverse this order 
of things, which after all is only natural. The past is 
so full of memories that I cannot grudge others the 
present. As Lawrence Hope wrote ; 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS a8l 


"So shall she see the flame in others' eyes. 

Hear the quick questions and the low replies ; 

But this shall not disturb her inward rest 
Because in her time she also knew the best. 

"But those who let the days of youth pass by. 

Scorning to share a lover's ecstasy. 

They shall repent when all their youth is flown, 

Most bitterly, because they have not known." 

I could not ever complain that I “have not known” 
for I have at least lived my life to its fullest extent, 
with many mistakes and with much payment for them, 
but in one thing I believe I have been successful ; I 
am still in love with life. I still think this world a 
glorious place in spite of its drawbacks, and I am 
glad to have had the privilege of living. Years ago I 
used to dread the thought of growing old ; now as I 
approach it I realise that old age is like the bogey 
tales which frightened us when we were children. It 
does not exist. The wrinkles and the grey hairs are only 
on the surface, and only affect the superficial. All 
of the things which are really ours, a part of ourselves, 
we keep for ever. 

Sometimes when I sit alone at night I turn back 
the curtain and look into the past again, and remember 
some of the companions who walked a little way along 
the road with me . . . Ellen Terry and her calm, 
serene philosophy. Her art so filled her thoughts 
that she had no time for growing old; what would she 
have said to me ? I know, for she said it so often in 
her lifetime . . . 

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough 
hew them as we may.” 

Dear Ellen Terry, I am grateful for my memories 
of her. 

And then I think of Sarah Bernhardt, dying in her 
poverty while bailiffs’ men waited at her doors, and 



a8a DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

an enterprising cinema company took a film of her 
last hours so that the son, for whom she had slaved, 
might be made the richer by a few paltry thousands 
of francs* I can only remember her in the last play 
in which I saw her. La Gloire of Maurice Rostand ; she 
could have had no epitaph more fitting. 

And then I pass to Victorien Sardou, historian 
and philosopher, 

"History only serves to show us how little is our 
importance in the scheme of the world," he once said 
to me. "It is only the privileged few who leave any 
imprint upon time." 

But the knowledge of this did not prevent him from 
enjoying life to the full. 

There was Isadora Duncan, so absorbed in her 
gospel of pagan pleasure, pursuing beauty so ardently, 
that she scarcely saw the pitfall at the end of the road 
where old age waited for her ; which was wise enough 
for she never lived to fall into it. 

N 

And Lily Langtry, who slipped away from the 
scenes of her triumphs and passed the last years of her 
life at Monte Carlo, what a grief old age was to her. 

"There is enough punishment for every sin we have 
ever committed in our lives in the penalty of growing 
old," I remember her telling me long ago, yet when 
old age actually came to her I do not think she was 
altogether unhappy. 

And then I think of Billy Sunday and his sturdy 
Christianity. 

"Catch hold of the lifeline," he would have said 
to me. 

Well, perhaps he was right too. 

And last of all I think of Cosmo, my husband. 

I realize that I have written very little of this quiet, 
rather stem Scotsman whom I married. It is not 
because I have not thought of him many times since 
1 began this book ; his death last year left a blank in 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 283 

my life that will never be filled; but both he and 
I belonged to the generation which made a virtue of 
reticence, at least where one's personal affairs were 
concerned, and he would have disliked nothing more 
than the idea that I should lay bare all the intimacies 
of our life together* 

I know that it is the fashion to-day to turn your 
soul and every emotion it experiences inside out for 
the benefit of all and sundry, but I cannot accustom 
myself to it. So of Cosmo I will only write that I loved 
him very dearly, and although we disagreed as all 
lovers do sometimes, he never once failed me in all 
the years of our marriage. His was that rare gift of 
understanding which pardons everything. 

In these days everyone accepts the fact that a 
married woman can work without running the risk of 
wrecking her home life, but at the time when I first 
went into the business world it was different. I was 
solemnly warned by well-meaning friends that I should 
almost certainly lose my husband unless I gave up my 
work and devoted my whole time to him. A woman's 
place was the home, they told me, and for her to step 
out of it even for a few hours each day to compete with 
men in their own field meant the forfeiture of privileges 
which have been hers from time immemorial. What 
privileges, I would ask them ? And they would become 
rather vague and murmur something about protection, 
and the right of a man to support his wife, and the 
right of a wife to devote her whole time to her husband. 
All of which is perfectly true in theory, but like many 
other theories not infallible in practice. 

My own view of the question is this. There is 
nothing that is more likely to wreck marriage than 
boredom, for the moment that either husband or wife 
begins to see their partnership as a disagreeable tie 
restraining them from living the sort of life that interests 
them, its failure is assured. They may remain together. 



284 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

but it will be out of a sense of duty rather than out of 
mutual companionship, and duty can be a terribly 
dull thing to live with. In nearly all the unhappy 
marriages that I know of I have found that the wife 
has been bored, and has not had enough in her life 
to interest her. In the old days it was different, 
for then being a wife was a whole-time job, and between 
running a big household, having children and bringing 
them up, and entertaining in the lavish way that was 
then a social necessity there was no opportunity for 
the most energetic woman on earth to be bored. 

But these are the days of small households, small 
families and labour-saving flats, and by the time that 
a woman has sent her children to school, arranged 
the flowers and given the tradesmen the orders for the 
day she realizes that the rest of the twenty-four hours 
has to be filled somehow, and very often it is difficult 
to fill it. For the woman who is what is called “a born 
housewife” the problem is simpler, for one can always 
find something to do in a house, just as a man can 
always find something to do to a car, but very few 
modem women are “born housewives”. For these 
women a career is their salvation. It certainly was 
mine, for I am ashamed to admit that I never had 
much interest in the actual running of my house, and 
found that the competent housekeeper I was able to 
afford did the work far more efficiently and far more 
happily than I should have done, leaving me free to 
devote myself to the thing I was a success at, my 
designing. The result was that I never knew what 
it was to be bored. 

I am not advocating for one moment that the 
woman who feels an urge towards the business world 
should neglect her home, and give her husband and 
children the second place in her interests, but I do 
think that there are many women to-day sitting dis- 
contented and repining in small suburban homes, kept 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 385 

there by the conventional idea that they are in their 
only rightful place, when there would be a far greater 
chance of happiness for both themselves and their 
husbands if they were able to take up a career which 
would give them a wider outlook on life. 

For myself I never regretted my efforts to reconcile 
marriage with a business career, for I only found that 
my husband and I gained a better understanding of 
one another through a mutual interest, I was one of 
the pioneers among women of my class to enter the 
business world, and I often envy the modern business 
girl her chance to begin where I left off. She has so many 
more possibilities at her command than I ever had, 
and so many doors are open to her which were closed 
to me. 

One of the few welcome changes which the War 
brought about was the levelling of the social barriers 
which were the cause of so many wasted talents in the 
past. In these days women can take up any career 
that interests them ; they can become book-keepers 
or shop assistants, chorus girls or horse dealers without 
losing their place in society. What a far cry it seems 
from the day when my dressmaking venture horrified 
the orthodox! 

As a dress designer and as a woman in what is 
called, I suppose, society I have seen many things. 

I saw the passing of the Victorians. The Court 
mourning I made for Queen Victoria's death was a 
farewell note to the old regime. It said farewell to so 
many things, to wax fruit and antimacassars, to family 
prayers, and to the ideal of "the good woman" who 
never tempted her husband to carnal thoughts and was 
ashamed of passion, if she was so misguided as to ever 
feel it. 

The coronation dresses for the Edwardian beauties 
heralded a more lavish, less restricted era. People 
relaxed, started to go abroad to Biarritz and Baden- 



286 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

Baden, women began to spend more, and to think 
more of their clothes* 

Then came the Georgians and the feminists ; the 
Suffragettes were screaming for freedom in Trafalgar 
Square while I launched in Paris the silliest, most 
helpless, most irresponsible fashion that women have 
ever submitted to ♦ . . the hobble skirt* Society 
tottered through the last of the pre-War parties, waved 
tiny lace handkerchiefs, and carried elaborate parasols 
until the War came with its sweeping changes* 

But even the War could not make women forget 
the fashions, at least not altogether. Side by side with 
the pictures of the British Expeditionary Force embark- 
ing appeared the pictures of the new dresses, with 
their wide taffeta skirts, tight bodices and full sleeves. 
Women, always personal in their outlook on every- 
thing, had translated the world's crisis in their own 
way. Their men were going to fight for them, they 
wanted themselves to represent everything that was 
most feminine* So they put on frills and laces and 
big hats with ribbon bows to gladden the hearts of the 
returned warriors. It was an unconscious form of logic 
perhaps, but a perfectly true one. 

Later, as the struggle became far graver than 
anyone had imagined, the fashions changed again. 
The women were standing shoulder to shoulder, with 
the men, and as one after another was absorbed into 
some sort of War-work the clothes became practical. 
Tailor-made suits replaced the bouffant skirts, hats 
became plain ; fashions became almost like the uniforms 
the men were wearing. 

The War ended and once more the fashions 
reflected the reaction, \ This time there was no apparent 
logic in the change. The only definite idea seemed in 
favour of discarding the old institutions. Women 
took off their corsets, reduced their clothing to the 
minimum tolerated by the conventions and wore 



DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 287 

clothes which wrapped around them rather than fitted. 
Dresses slipped on and off without fastenings, 
unrestrained hips wobbled in the freedom of the new 
barbaric jazz movements ; some people were shocked ; 
others, grown wise, shrugged their shoulders over a 
passing phase. 

The revolt came in the austerity of the new “boyish 
ideal", established by the dressmakers ; slender figures 
were dressed with the simplicity of the Greek tunics. 

And now, as I have already written, we are back 
to a mock Victorian, but it is a new and sophisticated 
Victorian, for between the "nineties and to-day women 
have run through a whole gamut of emotions, and a 
whole cycle of fashions. So the dress of 1932 expresses 
a little of all the fleeting modes that have led up to it. 

So much for my observations as a dressmaker. 

As a woman I have seen the end of entertaining 
as the Edwardians knew it. We have to-day no 
hostesses to take the place of Mrs. Willie James and the 
Countess of Warwick ; we have no political receptions 
worthy of the past traditions. The old splendour of 
hospitality has gone, there is neither time nor money 
for it to-day. And with it have gone many other 
things ; the art of conversation, for instance, which 
flourished in the drawing-rooms of thirty or forty years 
ago has no place at the cocktail party ; even the informal 
little dinner parties, which are so popular at present, 
are generally a hurried prelude to a theatre, and there 
is no time for much talk in between the courses of a 
curtailed menu. 

I meet few really witty women to-day, and those 
I do meet are nearly all of my own generation, for 
the modem girl excels in many things, but even her 
most ardent admirers could not claim for her the 
art of conversation, and my own experience has shown 
me that the modern young man is even more deficient 
in this respect. 



288 DISCRETIONS AND INDISCRETIONS 

There are also few outstanding beauties to-day, 
although I am quite prepared to admit that this is 
probably due to the fact that the general standard is 
so much higher that, in a world where so many women 
are more than ordinarily pretty, great beauty does not 
exdte the comment it did in the past. Or perhaps it 
is merely that modern beauty is not surrounded with 
the same glamour. We have no successor to Lil y 
Langtry, yet there are many women in society who 
taken feature by feature are quite as beautiful as she 
was, but then Lily Langtry was a legend, she stood for 
romance, 

I am no slavish admirer of the past; I do not 
hark back to Victorian and Edwardian days as to a 
halcyon age, where everything was better than it will 
ever be again, as so many of my contemporaries do. 
On the contrary, I think that the present generation 
has got rid of a great deal of humbug and hypocrisy ; 
people have learnt to look facts in the face. But I do 
regret the passing of so much of the romance which 
made the world a very pleasant place in the past. 
It is possible to look upon realities too much, so that 
you lose the power of make-believe, and I think that 
perhaps 'is a mistake which we are all making to-day. 

But, after all, it is easy to grow wise when one is 
only a spectator, sur la branche , and that is my role 
now, as I sit in my little house in Hampstead and 
review the past and the present as I have known it 
and know it still. 

But I do not intend always to remain a spectator ; 
my enthusiasms and interests are still keen, new 
adventures stretch ahead of me, and I await eagerly 
die future. 


THE END 





AIDE-de-CAMP’S LIBRARY 


Aecn. No, 

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